Ronny was not just shy; he was downright backward. As a 17-year-old high school senior, Ronny had never really had a close friend or done anything that included other people. He was famous for his shyness. He never said anything to anybody, not even a teacher. One look at him told you a great deal of the story—inferiority complex. He slumped over as if to hide his face and seemed to be always looking at his feet. He always sat in the back of the class and would never participate. He was such a novelty, it became kind of a school joke.
One thing you could say about him—he came by his complex honestly. His parents were the same way. People right next door went months without even seeing them. Ronny’s father was a night custodian for a small business building. He left for work late at night, worked alone, and came home just as others were getting up. Neighbors used to joke that they never ate because they were afraid to go to the store—afraid someone might talk to them.
It was because of Ronny’s shyness that I was so astonished when he started coming to my Sunday School class. He was a member of the Church. I vaguely remembered when a relative from out of town came to baptize him. Ronny was 14 then, and so shy that a special baptismal service had to be arranged. Just Ronny, his uncle, the bishop, and the missionaries. It must have about killed him being the center of attention.
His attendance in my class was the result of the personal efforts of a classmember, Brandon Craig, who had recently befriended Ronny. Boy, if there had ever been a mismatch, this was it. Brandon was “Mr. Social.” A good head taller than Ronny, he was undisputedly the number one star of our high school athletics program. Brandon was involved in everything and successful at everything. You had to smile whenever you looked at him. He was just a neat kid.
Well, Brandon took to little Ronny like glue. Class was obviously painful for Ronny, but Brandon protected him like the king’s guard. I played a low profile—no questions, just a quick smile and once a pat on the back. Time seemed to be helping, but I often wondered if Brandon and company (the rest of the class certainly played it right) would ever be able to break the ice. That’s why I was so shocked when Brian, the class president, stood before our Sunday School class one Sunday afternoon and boldly announced that Ronny would offer the opening prayer.
There was a moment of hesitation; then Ronny slowly came to his feet. Still looking at his shoes, he walked to the front of the room. He folded his arms (his head was already bowed). The class was frozen solid. I thought to myself, “If he does it, we’ll all be translated.”
Then almost at a whisper I heard, “Our Father in Heaven, thank you for our Sunday School class.” Then silence—long, loud silence! I could feel poor Ronny suffering. Then came a few sniffles and a muffled sob.
“Oh, no,” I thought, “I should be up front where I can help or something.”
I hurt for him; we all did. I opened an eye and looked up to make my way to Ronny. But Brandon beat me to it. With an eye still open I watched six-foot-four Brandon put his arm around his friend, bend down and put his chin on Ronny’s shoulder, then whisper the words of a short, sweet prayer. Ronny struggled for composure, then repeated the prayer.
But when the prayer was over, Ronny kept his head bowed and added: “Thank you for Brandon, amen.” He then turned and looked up at his big buddy and said clear enough for all to hear, “I love you, Brandon.”
Brandon, who still had his arm around him, responded, “I love you too, Ronny. And that was fun.”
And it was, for all of us.