The day I got sick and threw up at school was my worst day. It was also my best day. That’s the day Rosella became my best friend. I was feeling sick and stupid, and she just walked over, got some paper towels, and started helping me clean up the floor. When I told her she didn’t have to do that, she said, “Oh, I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up, and this doesn’t bother me at all.” When school was over, she walked home with me.
It seemed that Rosella wasn’t ever afraid of things. Once she rescued a nonpoisonous snake from some boys who were being mean to it. She carried the snake all the way home so it could live in some bushes in her backyard. I kept watching the snake and its beady, black eyes and wondering if it was going to reach around and bite her. But Rosella didn’t seem worried at all.
One day Rosella and I were sitting next to each other during music class. We were practicing songs for the spring program when the intercom crackled and the principal’s voice asked the music teacher to please come to the office. The teacher told everyone to behave. He said he would be back in a minute, but he was gone a long time.
Some of the boys in the class began throwing wads of paper at the trash can on the other side of the room. Soon the floor was littered with paper.
One of the boys who was throwing paper looked at a boy named Alan and said, “Alan, look at that mess you made. You’d better go pick up those papers.”
Alan hadn’t thrown any paper at all, but he didn’t argue. He just nodded, got up from his chair, and began picking up the paper. It took him a long time because he picked up one wad at a time. Alan had crooked glasses, and his hair stood up in tufts all over his head. Something happened when he was born, and he didn’t get enough oxygen. Because of that he had a hard time learning. Sometimes he tripped or made mistakes. But he wanted to be friends with everyone, and he smiled a lot.
After Alan had picked up all the paper, he walked back to his chair. The other boys were all grinning. When Alan turned to sit down, one of them reached over and yanked the chair out from under him. Alan sat down on the floor. Hard. You could see it hurt him because tears came to his eyes. But when the boys all started laughing, Alan tried to laugh too.
The next thing I knew, Rosella was standing up. She marched across the room and stood in front of those boys, glaring at them. Then she reached out her hand and helped Alan get into his chair. The whole class was silent. She asked Alan if he was hurt, and he shook his head. Then she put her hands on her hips. “Being mean to people is a really chicken way of trying to be funny,” she told the boys.
They just looked at her. She didn’t sound mean or angry, but everyone knew she meant it.
Then Rosella turned around and walked back to her chair. The class was dead quiet. I wondered what the boys would do. They usually didn’t like being told what to do, especially by a girl. I kept hoping the teacher would come back before anything else happened. Then one of the boys looked over at Alan. “Sorry we yanked your chair,” he said.
Alan folded his hands together and smiled big. “It’s OK. I have friends.” He looked over at Rosella.
Just then the teacher walked in. No one said anything about the paper, and class continued as usual. When Rosella picked up her music, I could see that her hands were shaking, but she had a quiet look on her face.
Our class began practicing. I could hear the piano playing and the class singing, but I was thinking about Rosella. I was thinking about how she stood up for Alan even though she was probably scared. I looked at Rosella singing the song and then over at Alan. Then I understood—being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. Being brave means doing the right thing even if you are scared.
“Will it take courage to stand tall? Of course it will. Can you muster the courage? Of course you can. Seek strength from your Heavenly Father.”
Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop, “Stand Tall,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 65–66.