People rarely walked up the big hill to get to my house. The ice-cream man wouldn’t waste his gas going up such a steep hill, the paperboy refused to ride his bike to deliver papers there, and even my dog would never run away because he would have to run back up the hill to get home! But at least once a week, Linda huffed and puffed up the big hill on her way up, up, up to my house.
Linda was an older, heavyset woman with short black-and-white hair like salt and pepper. Some people in our neighborhood said she was disabled, but my mother told me that Linda was special. Inside, she was still a little girl. Whenever Linda came to visit, she would greet us with a great big hug and a kiss on the cheek. We could not help smiling when she was around.
One day Linda came jaunting up the hill and bolted into the house. She never knocked or rang the doorbell; she just came in and said, “Linda is here!” Today she was so excited that she grabbed my brother Roy and danced him around the room, yelling, “I’m invited to the Snowflake Ball! Linda is invited to the Snowflake Ball!”
The Snowflake Ball was a fancy dance party for the people who went to Linda’s school. She was so excited to get dressed up that she could not talk about anything else. “I want to wear a big, red, fluffy dress, sparkles in my hair, and red, sparkly shoes,” she said. “I want to wear roses in my hair too. Do you like red, Katie?”
“I like red, but I like pink best,” I answered truthfully.
“I like red the best. I have always wanted to wear a beautiful red dress and be a fancy lady.”
Mother offered to sew Linda’s dream dress. We bought some red shoes at the discount store and glued glitter on them so they sparkled. Every time Linda tried on her dress and shoes, she cried when she had to take them off again. She liked looking as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside.
Finally the day of the Snowflake Ball arrived. It was a school day for me, but I felt excited for Linda’s big party. At lunch I sat down outside with my friends. From a distance I heard someone yelling my name. “Katie! Katie! My best friend, Katie! Look at me! Katie, I’m so pretty! Katie, look at my pretty, fluffy, puffy, sparkly, happy dress. Katie, look at your friend Linda! I am a fancy lady. Linda is right here. Look, Katie!”
I saw Linda waving from across the street, all dressed up. I would have waved back, but I noticed my friends’ faces. They looked surprised.
“You know that weird lady?” Natalie asked. “She walks all over our neighborhood. My mother says she’s crazy.”
I stammered for an answer.
Then Kelly added, “I see her all over our neighborhood too. Look at her ugly dress! She looks so funny!” They all started to laugh.
Natalie smirked and again asked, “So you know that crazy lady? Is she your best friend or something? How does she know your name?”
Across the street Linda was still waving to me, but she had stopped yelling. I could tell she was sad that I had not answered. I sat quietly for a moment. “Um, I think she knows my name because she walks by our house and hears my mom calling me,” I lied. “Of course I don’t know her.”
Kelly, Natalie, and the other girls seemed relieved and continued joking about her. I felt terrible. I could not bring myself to look across the street at Linda. I couldn’t eat the rest of my lunch; I couldn’t even talk. I knew I had done something wrong.
When I was baptized the year before, I had promised to try to be like Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was now telling me that I had broken my promise. Jesus loved Linda and would never treat her this way, and He loved me and would never want me to act this way.
As the girls began to clear away their lunches, I jumped up. “Stop! I am friends with that lady,” I blurted out. “Her name is Linda, and she is a friend of my family. Please don’t be mean to her. She is special, and we love her.” Some of the girls suppressed smiles, but others said they had special friends like Linda too.
Linda sat on the street curb looking sadly down at her sparkly shoes. Now it was my turn to shout and wave my arms. “Linda, Linda, my best friend, Linda. Look at me! Linda, you look so pretty! You are a very fancy lady! Linda, look at your pretty, puffy, sparkly, happy dress! Linda, look at your friend Katie. Katie is right here, Linda!”
Linda lifted her head. She smiled and waved. The more I waved and shouted, the more she waved back and smiled. Soon she and I were jumping up and down, waving, blowing kisses to each other, and smiling. We had attracted the attention of all the students outside, and they heard me say that Linda was my friend.
Linda had a wonderful time at the Snowflake Ball. She really did look like a fancy lady. Mother and I volunteered to serve punch at the dance so we could watch Linda have a good time.
After the ball Mother, Linda, and I walked up that great big hill to my house. I apologized to Linda for being slow to wave to her. She didn’t even seem to remember, and I thought how lucky I was to have such a forgiving friend. We had a lovely walk home together, my best friends and I. Somehow, with them on each side of me, that great big hill up, up, up to my house didn’t seem so hard after all.
[What They Are Inside]
“[Some people] may appear different, move awkwardly, and speak haltingly, but they have the same feelings. … They want to be loved for what they are inside.” President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Works of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 59.