Valentine’s Day was always a wonderful time for me. Back in the early 1920s when I was a child, we delivered valentines by sneaking up to a person’s house, placing the valentine in front of the door, and then kicking the door hard and running away. The person in the house would then run out and try to catch the messenger. Even though we were supposed to escape, we liked getting caught because the recipient of the valentine would always invite us back to the house for refreshments.
I was getting ready to deliver my valentines one year when Mother suggested, “Roy, don’t you think it would be nice to leave one for George?”
“But, Mother …” I protested, my voice trailing off. I didn’t want to tell her the truth—that I was afraid of George. He was a boy who appeared to be about my age. He did not attend school with us because he was mentally disabled. No one ever talked to or played with him because he seemed strange. He looked unusual—his face appeared to be flat, and he had a hard time walking. He acted differently, too. As my two brothers and I passed his house on our way to school, he would come out and try to communicate with us in grunts. Frightened, we would avoid him by hurriedly crossing the street to stay as far away as we could. As we passed by, we often noticed his mother taking him back into the house. He seemed sad whenever this happened.
Mother seemed to read my mind. “Son, I know you’re afraid, but that boy needs a friend. Will you do it?”
I reluctantly agreed. As my brothers and I walked down the street to George’s house, we decided that I would be the one to deliver the valentine. Nervously I lifted the latch on George’s front gate and approached the house, not knowing what to expect. Gathering all my courage, I stepped onto the porch, laid the valentine down, banged my foot against the front door, and then fled with all the speed I could muster.
As I ran through the gate and up the road, I glanced back and saw George’s mother opening the door. She looked down to see the valentine on the porch.
“Please, come back!” she called.
My brothers, who were waiting on the sidewalk, returned with me to the house. We entered the front room to find George dancing around clutching the valentine to his heart, tears streaming down his happy face. George’s mother grabbed all three of us, hugged and kissed us, and invited us into the cellar to pick out the biggest red apples we had ever seen.
From that time on, my brothers and I found it easy to be a friend to George. My mother had taken advantage of a great opportunity to teach us how to love our neighbor.
“If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Doctrine of Inclusion,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 36.