Reading with Ben


What do you do when it’s late and you’ve got too much to do and your little brother wants you to read to him? You might want to do what I did.

Sighing, I let the pen slip idly from my fingers as my head collapsed onto the desk in front of me. “I can’t do this anymore,” I groaned.

I looked up at the clock on the wall. It was 8:45 P.M. I had wanted to be in bed by 9:30. As I looked at the math exercises I was working on, my eyes filled with tears. I was so tired. My head was pounding, and my whole body ached, but sleep seemed unlikely tonight. The math would take me at least another hour to finish; then I had to learn my lines for tomorrow’s drama rehearsal. My English assignment was due in two days, and I hadn’t started it yet. On top of that, my piano lesson was the next day, and Mrs. Doolan was bound to be unimpressed with the limited practice I’d managed to fit in this week.

“Tammy?” The small voice roused me from my thoughts, and I turned, exasperated, toward the door.

“Ben,” I whined at my brother, “why aren’t you asleep yet?”

Six-year-old Ben scurried happily across the room and onto my lap.

“I’m not tired,” he answered simply.

Smiling, I put my arms around him and gave him a hug. It was impossible to stay angry with him for long.

“Read me a story, Tammy,” he pleaded.

“Ben,” I began, “I’d really like to, but I just can’t tonight.” I launched into a detailed account of the pressure I was under. Noting his disappointment, I stopped making excuses and began to feel guilty. My eyes fell on my scriptures sitting on the bedroom floor.

There’s another thing I have to do tonight, I thought, feeling even more discouraged.

Suddenly I had an idea. Putting Ben down on the floor, I reached for the Book of Mormon.

“You like scripture stories don’t you, Ben?” I asked. Nodding happily he settled down to listen. The seminary reading assignment was 3 Nephi 17 [3 Ne. 17], and I turned to the page quickly and began to read: “Behold, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked round about again on the multitude, and …”

“Tammy, what’s a multitude?” Ben interrupted.

“It’s a large group of people,” I answered hastily and then continued, “and he said unto them: Behold, my time is at hand.”

“Tammy, what does that mean?” Ben asked.

I groaned inwardly. This was going to take a lot longer than I had planned.

I read for about half an hour and finished just one page. Ben wanted to know and understand everything I was reading. Jesus directing the Nephites? Jesus healing the sick? Language that couldn’t be written? Everything fascinated him. But not me. I was simply eager to get through the chapter, send him to bed, and return to my mountain of homework.

“And when he had said these words,” I continued, “he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

“And when he had done this he wept again;

“And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.

“And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them” (3 Ne. 17:21–24).

Pausing for a breath, I suddenly realized I had just read four verses without being interrupted once!

Puzzled, I looked down at Ben and was surprised to see tears streaming down his small face. My eyes met his as I searched for an explanation.

“Tammy,” he said softly, “I wish I could have been there.”

Suddenly I felt my eyes stinging with tears, and I was filled with shame. “So do I, Ben,” I whispered.

My homework, drama rehearsal, and piano practice paled in significance as I realized it was my attitude toward spiritual matters that needed attention. I hugged the sweet little brother who had reminded me of what was really important, and I vowed to be better.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus