Long ago, when I first became an LDS chaplain in the Air Force, my wife and I were stationed at a large military training center. Every Sunday evening we opened our house to all of the Latter-day Saint military students for a family home evening. We sang, played games, shared joys and disappointments, and inhaled the refreshments. But, most of all, we tried to make sure no one was ever left to feel alone. Something happened there that we’ve never forgotten.
One night my wife and I decided to have a “do-it-yourself” lesson for the students. We handed out crayons, construction paper, clay, and building blocks to everyone and asked them to create something that would reflect their feelings about family home evening and why they would continue to have it as they went on to future military assignments. Some drew pictures, some wrote poems, some made paper models, everybody did something—even John.
John was our quiet one. He always came, but he never spoke to anyone. You see, he was from a very underprivileged background, and social life was not his way. He always stood in a corner by himself and occasionally smiled. My wife and I often worried for his welfare because he seemed so alone. But that night John did more than smile; he spoke from the very depths of his soul to the depths of ours.
When everyone else had finished showing their creations and attempts to capture the spirit of family home evening, John took his turn. He stepped out of his corner and held up the sheep he had sculptured from what had been a lump of ugly clay. But the clay was no longer ugly; it gained meaning in John’s hands as he said, “This represents the lost sheep that the Savior left the ninety and nine to find. I was lonely, and you found me. I was sad, and you brought me good cheer. It was here in this family home evening with all of you students that I found true friendship and love. Thank you.”
Over 60 eyes were wet with tears as he finished, because John had taught us the true meaning of Matthew 25:40 [Matt. 25:40]: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
I keep John’s sheep in a place where I can always see it. It reminds me that it is for people like him, people who feel they are alone, that we are to “bear one another’s burdens ” (Mosiah 18:8).