Lexi ran outside with the rest of Mrs. Crandall’s third-grade class for recess. What should she play today? Sometimes she jumped rope with Tara and Isabella. Sometimes she played foursquare with David and Kristina and Callie. But Lexi wanted to do something different today. Maybe she should join the soccer game.
Then Lexi noticed something very different.
A new girl sat near the edge of the playground. She had brown skin and long, shiny hair that reminded Lexi of her piano teacher’s glossy black piano. Lexi thought the new girl looked like a princess from another country.
Why wasn’t anyone playing with the new girl? Lexi decided to ask a teacher.
“Her name is Nasimah,” the teacher said. “She’s from Pakistan. She doesn’t speak English, but I’m sure she’d like to play with you.”
“I don’t know,” Lexi said. She wondered how she could play with the new girl if they couldn’t talk to each other. How would she say, “What do you want to play?” or, “It’s your turn,” or even, “Hello”?
Lexi decided to jump rope with Isabella after all. But she watched Nasimah whenever she could.
At home, Lexi couldn’t stop thinking of Nasimah and how lonely she must be. There had to be a way to talk to her. Maybe Mom could think of something.
Lexi found her mother in the laundry room. She was sewing patches on Lexi’s brother’s Scout shirt. “Do you know any words from Pakistan?” Lexi asked.
“No,” Mom said. “Why?”
Lexi explained about Nasimah.
“If you want to play with her, I think you should,” Mom said, “even if you can’t understand her words.”
“I don’t know,” Lexi said. She hung her head and played with the spools of thread in Mom’s sewing box. A ball of black yarn reminded Lexi of Nasimah’s shiny hair.
An idea was coming together in Lexi’s brain. “Mom,” she said, “do you have an old sock I can use?”
“An old sock? I suppose so.”
“And can I use some of this yarn?” Lexi dug through the box and found the button jar. “And a couple of buttons?”
“Sure,” Mom said.
With a little help from Mom, Lexi made the perfect sock puppet. Its hair was black, just like Nasimah’s hair. Its button eyes were blue, just like Lexi’s eyes. Mom helped Lexi make a red dress for the puppet.
The next day, Lexi thought recess would never come. Concentrating on her spelling test was hard. She kept thinking of the sock puppet in her backpack. Finally recess came and Lexi raced outside with the puppet.
Where was Nasimah? Lexi looked all over the playground. At last, Nasimah came out with her class and stood by the wall.
Lexi took a deep breath. Would the puppet work? It had seemed like such a wonderful idea yesterday.
“I have to try,” Lexi thought.
She walked slowly over to Nasimah. Lexi held up the puppet and slipped it over her hand. Moving her hand, she made the puppet talk.
“Hi!” the puppet said in Lexi’s voice. “Do you want to play with me?”
Lexi took the puppet off her hand. She gave it to Nasimah and helped her put it on her hand.
Nasimah moved the sock puppet. It began to speak strange words that danced in Lexi’s ears. They took turns with the puppet for the rest of recess. When Lexi held the puppet, it spoke English. When Nasimah held the puppet, it spoke her language. Lexi thought she was starting to understand a couple of words.
When the bell rang, Lexi handed the puppet to her new friend. “You keep it,” Lexi said. “It’s a present.”
Nasimah seemed to understand. She kept the puppet and smiled.
“Smiles are the same in all languages,” Lexi thought. And she smiled back.
“In the great diversity of peoples, cultures, and circumstances, we remember that all are equal before the Lord.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “Heirs to the Kingdom of God,” Ensign, May 1995, 62.