The March day felt almost like summer as Raybell walked down the quiet country road. Her parents had gone to dinner the night before and had brought her two fortune cookies that she carried in a paper bag. She wanted to give one to her best friend, Linda.
Raybell looked out over the fields that were just beginning to turn green and thought how very quiet and empty her little farming town was. The sun felt warm on her head and shoulders, and a meadowlark broke the lonely silence with its call from the telephone lines.
Raybell hurried up the long walkway to Linda’s house and knocked on the door. She waited and then knocked again. The house was silent. Maybe Linda’s family had gone into town. Raybell sat on the steps and waited for about ten minutes, though it seemed longer. Finally she got up and wandered across the road to the church, a white building with pine trees in front. She sat down on the church steps where she had a view of Linda’s house. She could also see Judy’s house across the field, and she began to think about what had happened after Primary one day last month.
Snow had fallen all day, covering everything. Raybell and Linda had come out of their Primary class into the front foyer where everybody’s coats and boots were. “Look at Judy’s raggedy old brown boots,” Linda had said. “Judy is so mean. She’s always saying something rude, even to the teacher. And I know she stole my new pen that I got for my birthday.”
“How do you know?” Raybell asked.
“I saw her with it. I’m pretty sure it was mine.”
“I wonder if she stole my candy bar out of my desk too,” Raybell said.
“You know what we could do?” Linda whispered. “We could put snow in her boots.”
Before Raybell could say anything, Linda grabbed them and started out the door. Raybell went after her, and together they filled the toes of Judy’s boots with snow and put them back in place before Judy came out of her class.
When Judy came into the foyer, Raybell and Linda stood nearby and watched her. Judy pulled on one boot and quickly pulled her foot out again. Linda giggled a little, but Judy didn’t seem to hear. She looked into her boot and frowned. The look in Judy’s eyes made Raybell feel a little sick inside. Judy picked up her boots and went outside. As she passed Raybell and Linda, she looked defiantly into their faces. She emptied her boots, pulled each one on, and trudged across the snowy field to her house. Raybell and Linda stood on the church steps watching her and then went home without saying much.
Now Raybell sat on the steps in the warm sunshine and remembered the feelings of that day. Judy hadn’t spoken to her in the last month, but she had never been very friendly. Raybell looked across the field at Judy’s run-down house, surrounded by old, broken-down cars.
Judy always seemed to be angry, but Raybell remembered one day last summer when she wasn’t. Raybell’s yellow kitten had disappeared. She had searched everywhere around their farm and finally had walked down the road calling it. Raybell was afraid a coyote had come down from the hills and eaten it. Tears were falling as she walked along the road. Suddenly she looked up, and through the blur of her tears, she saw Judy running across the field toward her with the yellow kitten in her arms. She held the kitten out to her. “Is this yours?”
Raybell gathered the soft kitten into her arms. It purred and rubbed its nose against her cheek. “Yes. Where did you find it?”
“When I cut through the field I heard a loud meow, and there it was, between the rows of wheat. I thought maybe it was yours.”
“Thanks for bringing her to me.” Raybell smiled, and Judy smiled back.
Raybell looked again at Judy’s old house. She looked at the paper sack sitting on the steps with the two fortune cookies in it. She picked it up and climbed through the fence into the damp, plowed field.
As Raybell approached the house, she saw Judy sitting on her rickety front steps wearing an old army shirt and baggy pants. She watched Raybell with a hostile expression, and Raybell wished she hadn’t come. She tried to smile.
“My mom and dad went out to eat last night—”
“So?” Judy said.
“Well, they brought these fortune cookies, and I thought we could open them and read our fortunes.” Judy’s expression was puzzled but not angry. “Judy, I’m really sorry about putting snow in your boots.” She stood there not knowing what else to say.
“What do I care if my boots are wet? It doesn’t bother me,” Judy said.
“Well, I’m sorry anyway. I’d hate it if my boots were all wet inside. I guess I’m not as tough as you.”
Judy shrugged her shoulders. “So are you going to give me one of those fortune cookies or not?”
“Oh, sure.” Raybell sat down on the steps and handed a cookie to Judy. They broke the cookies in half and read the slips of paper. “What does yours say?” Raybell asked.
Judy sat up very straight. “It says I will be rich and famous one day. How about yours?”
“‘You are a good leader and should consider politics or business,’” Raybell read. They both laughed.
Judy took a bite of her cookie. “I prefer chocolate cookies, but they’re not bad.”
“Me too,” Raybell said. They both laughed again. Raybell munched her cookie and thought that the spring sunshine felt even warmer here on Judy’s steps.
“Our highest priorities in life are to love God and to love our neighbors.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “‘Teach Us Tolerance and Love,’” Ensign, May 1994, 69.