I wanted to save more tadpoles, so Dad and I went to the creek near General Vallejo’s old historic adobe place. There wasn’t much water left in the creek, just puddles with tadpoles in them. When the water dried up, they would die—unless we rescued them. Dad and I caught hundreds of those tadpoles in our jars and took them to the lake. Dad said that God wouldn’t waste time creating anything He didn’t love. The least we could do was respect His creations and help whenever, wherever, and whatever we could—tadpoles included!
One day while we were taking tadpoles out of the creek, Dad looked troubled. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m worried about Eddie Porter,” Dad replied. Dad was Brother Porter’s home teacher, and he and his companion could never get Brother Porter to let them into his home. “He doesn’t come to church,” Dad said. “He’s getting old, lives alone, and has a lot of problems. He seems depressed most of the time, and I think he believes that God has given up on him.”
Dad scooped out three tadpoles and dumped them into a pail of water. “He never says much when Brother Phillips and I talk to him at the door. Just nods and says he has things to do. But last month when we stopped by, he had moved. Where, I don’t know.” Dad looked up the creek bed as if he hoped he might spot Brother Porter coming out of the heat rising from the rocks like a thin, wavy wall. “I doubt he moved out of town, because he has lived here all his life,” Dad continued. “I’ve got to find him, Matt.”
“Why, Dad?” I was confused. “If Brother Porter wants to be alone, why worry about it?”
“He’s my responsibility, son,” Dad explained. “And I feel that he’s in real need. Brother Phillips is out of town for a couple of months, so I’ll try to find Brother Porter on my own.” Dad smiled at me. “Unless, of course, you’d like to help.”
“But what about these tadpoles, Dad? If we don’t get them moved, they’ll die. They want to be helped. Brother Porter doesn’t.”
“They have enough water to last a few more weeks. But I don’t know if Eddie Porter has the same amount of willpower,” Dad said. “Besides,” he added in a voice that made me look straight at him, “like you and me, Brother Porter is a child of God. The scriptures teach us that the Savior spent His entire life loving, lifting, and healing others. These little critters are important, but what is more important than all these tadpoles?”
“Brother Porter?” I guessed.
For the next two weeks, Dad and I were like detectives. We searched for clues, asked questions, and talked to people. But most of all we prayed that Heavenly Father would lead us to the right house.
Then one evening Dad and I walked up to a little old place, kind of jammed between two warehouses near the canal. Dad knocked on the rusty screen door, and we waited.
We were about to leave when the door opened. The old man standing behind the screen seemed like a ghost—kind of there and not there at the same time. He had whiskers and wore rumpled, worn-out clothes.
“Brother Porter,” Dad said.
The old man’s eyes looked sad and surprised, maybe even angry. “How did you find me?” he asked.
Dad smiled. “It wasn’t easy, Eddie. It’s taken us two weeks.”
Brother Porter looked at me. I guess I was nervous because my voice was shaky. “Hi, Brother Porter.”
Brother Porter looked back up at Dad. “Why?” he said. “Why did you want to find me? I’ve never—”
“Because you’re important, Brother Porter,” I said. “You’re a child of God. He loves you. And so do we. Yep, we do.” I said it again because he looked so surprised. It was quiet for a little bit, so I said, “Dad and I were saving tadpoles from the creek that’s drying up, but Dad wanted to start looking for you instead. You’re more important than all the tadpoles that ever hatched. Mom thinks so, too.” I held out a lunch bag. “She made some cookies for you.”
Brother Porter turned away from us. I thought he was still mad at us for bothering him, but when he turned back, he was crying. He pushed open the door. “Won’t you come in?” Dad didn’t say anything. He was crying, too.
We went inside, and Dad squeezed my hand. Suddenly I knew how important Eddie Porter—and everyone else—was. Jesus wouldn’t have spent His whole life helping others if it weren’t so.
The tadpoles could wait. They would be all right. Dad and I needed to make sure that Brother Porter would be all right first.
“The Redeemer … calls you and me to serve Him here below and sets us to the task He would have us fulfill. … As we follow [Him] … our personal influence will be felt for good.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “Your Personal Influence,” Ensign, May 2004, 20.