Petey didn’t want to be a Sunbeam. I knew because I sat on the row behind the little chairs. At first they were empty. Then, one by one, the new Sunbeam class walked in.
I nudged my friend Ryan. “Hey, there’s your little sister Maggie!”
He shrugged, but I could tell by his smile that he was proud to be a big brother in Primary now.
I knew some other Sunbeams, too. There was Ralph’s little brother Jakey and Caitlyn’s little sister Ashley. The only one I didn’t know very well was the boy with the wild brown hair—Petey. His hair stuck out all over the place like a bird’s nest.
The bishop had introduced Petey’s family to the ward during sacrament meeting just last week. I’d turned around to see if they had a boy I could play with, but the only names he announced were the parents’ names and “Peter Alexander.” Petey didn’t have any brothers or sisters. Maybe if he’d had a brother or sister, he wouldn’t have been so scared.
As soon as the Sunbeams walked to their chairs in front of the whole Primary, Petey started to cry—loud. Sister Evans tried to make him feel better by holding him on her lap and showing him her happy/sad-face puppets, but it didn’t do any good. He sucked in big gulps of air and cried even louder. Finally, Sister Evans carried him out.
Some of the children giggled when they could still hear him bawling in the hallway, but I felt sorry for him. I remembered going to a friend’s birthday party once. There must have been 20 children there who I’d never seen before. It was scary being around a bunch of people I didn’t know, but at least I knew my friend and his parents.
Petey probably didn’t know anybody at Primary. That’s when I got an idea—what if I wrote him a letter? I could draw him some pictures and tell him that I’d be his Primary buddy if he wanted. I was so happy with my idea that I didn’t even mind when Janice kept kicking the back of my chair or when my brother took my favorite spot on the bench during sacrament meeting.
With Mom’s help, I wrote my letter that night. It was fun! I told Petey he’d learn a bunch of neat songs in Primary. And I told him about the Primary talent show that was coming up. Maybe he’d get to hear me sing with my brothers and sisters. Then I drew a picture of Nephi shooting an arrow and my remote-control monster car racing another car. I figured if I liked those things, then maybe he did, too. I signed my name and asked Mom to help me find his address. Then, at the last minute, I cut out one of my school pictures and dropped it in the envelope so he’d recognize me at church. Mom mailed it for me the next day.
I got so busy at school that week I forgot I’d even sent the letter—until Sunday! After we arrived at church, I hurried to the Primary room and waited for him to come in. That’s when my stomach started doing flip-flops. The longer I waited, the more I wondered. Had he gotten my letter? What if sending it had been a really bad idea? What if he didn’t like it? What if he didn’t want a Primary buddy? What if he didn’t want to come back to Primary at all?
Then I saw him! He trudged in behind Sister Evans and slid onto the little chair right in front of me.
“Hi, Petey!” I said, but he must not have heard me because he didn’t turn around or say “hi.”
I could tell he still didn’t want to be a Sunbeam because he sat really close to his teacher and stared down at his lap. “At least he’s not crying,” I thought hopefully.
Then disaster struck!
“Peter, would you please come up front so we can sing you a welcome song?” Sister Peterson asked. She hadn’t been at church last week, so she didn’t know that Petey was shy.
I held my breath.
“Come on up, Peter,” she said with a smile. “Don’t you want to hear our welcome song?”
Petey shook his head, clutching his teacher’s arm even tighter.
All the other children were waiting for Petey to burst out crying. And maybe he would have. His chin was already trembling, and his eyes were wide like a frightened rabbit’s.
That’s when I surprised myself. “I’ll go up with you, Petey,” I heard myself say.
Petey switched from looking at all the children to looking at just me. Did he recognize me from my picture? I guess he did, because a tiny smile crept across his face.
“OK,” he said quietly.
He held my hand really tight as we stood in front of the whole Primary. They sang the welcome song nice and loud like they did every time they welcomed someone new.
“Way to go!” I whispered when I took him back to his seat.
He grinned and waved at me.
And that’s when I knew—Petey was going to like being a Sunbeam after all.
“If we look for specific things we can do, the Holy Ghost will direct us, showing unto us … opportunities for helping others.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Hope Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 63.