Participatory Journalism:
The Red and White Button

by Laurel Lyn King

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    I wanted to be alone, to think, to meditate. There was something wrong, but I couldn’t tell what. Finally I arrived at the subway station; then digging into my pocket, I pulled out a quarter. I rode up to Park Street Station; a hundred blank faces rode with me. I didn’t know where they came from or where they were going; they didn’t know where I came from or where I was going. We didn’t care. The subway pulled into the station, and everyone pushed and shoved his way off. Something still haunted me. All the way home I did not see a single person although the streets were full of people. I was too involved in thought.

    At home I was greeted by warm feelings. I have never felt fear or emptiness there. I was more quiet than usual at dinner. I watched as my wonderful and beautiful parents ate; I could tell, just by their actions, that they loved life and, more importantly, the gospel. What was it that made them radiate?

    The following day I was in another “thinking mood.” As I walked to Longfellow Park, I thought of that great writer and the inspiration and influence he brought to so many people. Why could he do this? I was then reminded of my questions of the night before. As I thought, I remembered a little button the missionaries wear on their coats as a missionary tool. They’re red and white buttons and say, “I Care.” That was it! That was why my parents, and the missionaries, and Longfellow radiated and inspired others so much. They cared about people. That had been my problem; I didn’t care about the people I didn’t know. I decided to try it their way—I would try to care about people I didn’t even know.

    As I walked to teach my Primary class, I remembered my new goal. I greeted each child at the door. Each smiled back, radiating the sweet spirit each one has. I wanted now to teach the gospel, which I know is true, to each child—not to the whole class. I wanted each four-year-old to feel important, to feel the love I had for him. When Primary was over, I felt my relationship with each child had improved; I had felt a little of the beauty each held. Longfellow and the missionaries were a little smarter than I thought.

    At Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women youth activity night, I had another opportunity to try out my new goal. We took our roadshow to the infirmary. It was a wonderful experience. We loved putting it on for the patients, and they loved watching it. These people had few visitors, so we talked with some after the performance. They all expressed gratitude that someone listened and cared about them. It really made us feel special too.

    My next step was to try my goal at school. Being the only Mormon in my school was more than a little challenging. I started by listening to my friends, not just hearing. Others began to listen back. I found there was so much to learn about each person—their beliefs, their interests, and their goals. Also, I found that each person, whether he is Jewish, Greek Orthodox, or Catholic, wants to be important; he wants others to care about him.

    The red, yellow, and orange leaves crunched under my feet on the bumpy brick sidewalk. Ivy climbed up the old buildings I passed on my way, forming intricate designs. I was headed for the subway. I was happy; inside I was singing. The blue sky outlined the tall majestic buildings. When I arrived at the subway station, I dug into my pocket and pulled out a button that read, “I Care.” I smiled. I pulled out a quarter and rode up to Park Street Station. A hundred faces, each individual, each reflecting a different personality, rode with me.

    I smiled at every gaze that fell my way; some smiled back and sent a part of themselves with their smile. I knew where I was going; I knew what I wanted. I wanted others to know too. I had found the true joy of living; the button was pinned on the outside of my coat and on the inside of my heart.

    Illustrated by Richard Brown