Sixteen-year-old Jenny Bales gathered her three charges and placed them around the park table to eat their lunch. Her stomach was sending hurry signals to her hands to open her own bag. Lunches were usually quiet, and after a hard morning it gave her time to think. The deep pain was still resting just past her empty stomach. She would try to understand it a little more today.
She pulled an apple from her sack and looked across the table only to see Scotty Redman staring at her, frustration wrinkling his face into a frown.
Angrily, he slapped his square-fingered hand on the park table and cried, “Make it stop, Miss Baoes! Make da win stop! I don like it. My bag bow away.”
Jenny listened to a boy a year older than her wail like a small child. She felt a small knot replace the hunger pains in her stomach. In the last two months she had worked with Down’s Syndrome children. They each had a unique personality. With Scotty, when his world tilted too far, you had to shift it back, or he cried, sulked, threw things, or sat stubbornly against the wall. In the classroom, you found the missing crayon or helped him find a project. But stopping the wind was impossible. Scotty didn’t know this, and explaining it to him wouldn’t help.
“The win bow my bag away. Make it stop right now!”
That wind won’t blow your bag away, she thought. Just sit on it. But Jenny knew that wouldn’t work either. When Scotty ate his lunch, the bag had to be on the table to the left of his food. Order. Things like they were supposed to be. That’s what he needed. She had wanted time today to think about her own pain, but she knew Scotty would not stop unless she did something.
“Make da win stop,” he said. This time fire sparked in his eyes.
“Boy, you’re stubborn,” she whispered to herself. She felt the muscles in her left shoulder tighten in defense. One of Uncle Jed’s sayings sifted into her mind: “Stubborn is just determination headed the wrong way.”
That reminded her of Uncle Jed. Last spring he had suggested she find a summer job where she could look out at people and not into herself so much. “It’d be good to surround yourself with some joy,” he had said.
“I’d like that,” Jenny had said as they walked along the sidewalk in front of her house. She thought it might be fun working at the water slide. At least there she could see people, families, having fun.
“There are some openings for summer youth counselors at Parkhaven,” Uncle Jed said.
“Parkhaven? That’s for retarded children isn’t it?” That didn’t sound very joyful to her.
Uncle Jed stopped walking. He turned to face her and then smiled. With his characteristic softness he said, “Do you remember the New Testament story about the pool at Bethesda and the handicapped folks who waited for someone to move the water so they could be healed?”
“Do you remember who they waited for?”
“An angel, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. Some people have to wait for angels to help them while they are in their imperfect bodies. Actually, we’re all defective one way or the other. But because of the Savior and what he did in the Resurrection, we’ll eventually be wrapped with glory. Can you imagine how glad those children at Parkhaven are going to be when that happens? Now, though, while they wait for the time their bodies will become perfect, the children at Parkhaven have need of angels to soothe their spirits while they cope with bodies that don’t work as well as yours and mine.”
Jenny had felt uneasy about working with handicapped children. She was handicapped too, she thought—emotionally. She wanted someone to take care of her, not the other way around. But in the past she had trusted Uncle Jed’s gift of seeing things clearly when others couldn’t, so she took the job.
The first few days she felt nervous around the children. She fell into sympathy, nearly immobilized by what she imagined was their pain. She began to see, though, mighty spirits peeking through their disabilities. And she saw they persisted. She also learned that they didn’t need someone to feel sorry for them. They needed someone who saw them as valuable and capable. They needed help, like the rest of us. The only difference was sometimes they had trouble getting others to understand what kind of help or how to give it. But then again, Jenny had begun to think, maybe that wasn’t so different from the rest of us.
The demands of the job caused her to collapse on her bed at the end of each day. But she felt a new strength breaking through her own pain.
She looked across the table again. Scotty’s tongue darted down to his chin, across his lips and disappeared into his frown. His hands stayed wrapped around the top of the lunch bag. In the classroom things had order, she thought, but here the wind blew.
He slapped his chunky palms on the table again. “Make da win stop—now,” he yelled. His face turned beet red.
She hadn’t seen Scotty this disturbed before. She felt a little frightened and wondered what would happen if she couldn’t distract him or change his mind. But worse than the fear of what he might do, his stubbornness and anger grated still tender wounds. It felt too much like when Mom and Dad had separated. Six eternal months ago. Impasse. No solution. They had been stubborn. They still were.
When she let herself, she could still hear the echoes of the fights, the name calling, the doors slamming. As terrible as those were, they were better than the deafening silences that followed. Her world had tilted, and her order slid out of control.
She often wondered if Dad’s business failure was the real cause of the trouble. All she knew for sure was that it seemed to start when the money wasn’t there any more. No new clothes. Bill collectors on the phone and at the door. For a month after the separation she sulked, mad at the world, mad at her parents, and mad at Heavenly Father. Stubborn was the reason the family was apart now. Mom and Dad both demanding that something change, when it couldn’t. Stubborn—like Scotty, only worse. They knew better. They went to church, they used to pray, and the family used to work. Scotty was stubborn. They chose it. The anger was back. If she wasn’t careful, it would come pouring out, out of control like it sometimes did. It would land on Scotty and that wasn’t fair.
It was plain though that Scotty wasn’t going to eat lunch unless she made the wind stop. Maybe if she said a prayer. The divorce had taught her about prayer. When her parents first separated, she almost blamed Heavenly Father for the pain she was feeling. At night she muffled her sobs with a tear-soaked pillow until she fell asleep. In the morning she was never sure if it was anger, or loss, or confusion that greeted her first. Finally, though, when it was all more than she could bear, she had learned to ask for help, and the Savior’s healing hand would touch her heart for a moment while he retrieved from some lost corner of darkness, her peace—the peace that kept slipping away, but not so fast anymore.
So, she said a silent prayer. Then she told Scotty about the new pink dress she bought last Saturday—and waited for the wind to stop. His pudgy square fingers continued their grip on the top of the lunch bag. She finished her story and looked up to see the branches moving back and forth in the gusting wind. “I didn’t think that was the kind of prayer you’d answer, Heavenly Father, but what am I supposed to do?” she muttered under her breath. Then she remembered.
Jenny stood up and walked around to Scotty’s side of the table. His eyes drew a bead on her, every step she took. She sat down next to him then reached an arm around him. “Scotty, I’ve tried to make the wind stop, and I can’t. But I can be here.” He looked back into her eyes like he really wanted to understand. “I’ll sit right by your side while the wind blows. I promise. And if it blows your sack away, I can bring it back. Together we’ll keep things in order.”
Scotty’s tongue flicked again down to his chin. His hands loosened their grip on the sack. He opened it, pulled out a peanut butter sandwich, three carrot sticks, and a chocolate chip cookie. Then he set the bag to the left of his food. The wind blew and the bag flew away three times while he ate. But every time Jenny was there and brought it back to him. And every time he put it right back where it was supposed to be.