Fasting for Billy


(Based on an actual event)

Something was different about nine-year-old Heidi after school that cold afternoon. Instead of flinging her jacket when she walked in the door, she carefully hung it on the hook. Rather than pouncing at the refrigerator like a hungry tiger, she stared quietly out the window as if she were looking at something far beyond the border of the yard.

“Well, hi there!” Mom said, trying to get her attention.

Like a person awakened from a dream, Heidi looked at her mom and smiled. “Oh, how was your day, Mom?”

Mom wiped her hands on her apron and studied Heidi’s face. “My day was fine. How was yours?”

“Well … ,” Heidi began slowly, “it was … different.”

“I believe you. You seem to be light years away.”

“Well, maybe not that far. But as least as far as Arkansas.”

“Arkansas is a long way from California. What started you thinking about Arkansas?”

Mom cut an apple into four pieces and offered one to Heidi, who cradled it in her hand.

“There’s a new boy named Billy coming from Arkansas to join our class tomorrow. My teacher told us his parents were both in a car accident. His mother died, and his father is in a hospital and probably won’t survive, either. Billy was sent here to California to live with an uncle.” Heidi looked down at the apple she was holding. “Can you imagine being that boy, Mom?”

“No, but you’re really trying to, aren’t you?”

Heidi nodded. “I just wish there was something I could do for him. He’s going to feel really alone tomorrow.”

“I’m sure there are some things you can do to help. Let’s think of some.”

“I can smile at him.”

“Good idea.”

“I can show him around the school and tell him about our classroom routine.” Heidi put her chin on her hand and looked up at her mother. “But it isn’t enough. Isn’t there something special I can do?”

“Well, there is something special we can do for Billy. Something that just might be enough.”

“What?”

“You and I can fast and pray for him. We can ask Heavenly Father to bless him to feel at peace in his new home and at his new school. We can also pray for his father. What do you think about that?”

Heidi thought for a moment about fast Sundays. She had been taught that fasting would help her feel the Spirit, but she usually just felt hungry and grumpy. She hesitated, but then something inside let her know she would be OK. She smiled at her mother. “Let’s do it.”

Just then, Heidi’s 13-year-old brother, Chris, entered the kitchen. Hearing Heidi’s last sentence, he asked, “Do what?”

Mom briefly told Chris about Billy and explained their plan. Chris said, “I’ll fast with you.”

“Wow! Really?” Heidi asked.

“Yeah, sure,” he answered, reaching for some cookies. Stopping his hand just above the cookie jar, he asked, “When do we start?”

“After dinner,” Mom answered.

The next day, Heidi came home looking a little pale—but happy.

“Wow! I thought fasting on Sundays was hard! Try playing kick ball and watching everyone else eat lunch! But I think our fasting and prayers helped Billy.”

“Good! Tell me about it.”

“Well, when I smiled at him, he smiled back at me. The other kids were nice to him, and he made friends with a couple of boys by the end of the day.”

“That’s great,” Mom said.

“And then—it was weird,” Heidi added. “You know how some of the kids’ bad language has been bothering me lately?” Mom nodded, and Heidi continued, “Well, it was amazing, because I heard those same swear words, but for some reason, they couldn’t get inside my mind. It was as if my brain was protected all day from getting dirty! Neat, huh?”

“That’s wonderful, Heidi,” Mom said, smiling.

“I’m really tired, but I feel happy. I hope Billy feels as peaceful as I do right now.”

Mom gave her a little hug. “I have a feeling he does.”

When Chris came home, he flopped into the nearest chair and let his heavy backpack thud to the floor. He leaned his head against the headrest and closed his eyes. “When do we eat?”

“Let’s finish our fast with a prayer. We’ll have dinner soon,” Mom suggested. “But first, tell me how your day went.”

“My body felt pretty weak, but I kept thinking of Billy, and that helped,” Chris said. “Missing a couple of meals isn’t so much if it helps him feel better.”

As the three of them knelt to say one more prayer for Billy, Mom put her arms around her children’s shoulders. Was it her imagination, or had her children both grown a little taller that day?

[illustrations] Illustrated by Sherry Thompson