My Kind of Hero


Running may strengthen the heart, but what Jennifer did was even better.

I was puffing as I ran my third lap around the track, but I was determined to finish at least a mile. My friend Jennifer had pulled ahead of me as usual, nearly half a lap ahead and still gaining. It didn’t bother me that she was faster. I admired her for it. I admired her for a lot of things.

We had been friends since fifth grade, and I remember how she struggled with math so much that she had to get extra help. Now she was on the honor roll. Athletics came more easily to her, but she had to work hard at those, too. That’s why we were running the track together. She needed the athletic conditioning; I needed the exercise.

It was hard not to like Jennifer with her outgoing personality that made her cheerful and friendly. She seemed to have it all and do it all. Her life was an endless round of activities, all of them wholesome and productive.

I was busy too. I always had more to do than time to do it in. In fact, I had to schedule very carefully in order to fit it all in. I wondered about Jennifer’s schedule—which was busier than mine—and wondered how she did all that she did.

That was about when I noticed the younger red-haired girl standing by the track watching us. I knew her. She was a handicapped student at our small school. I said a polite hello as I ran by her, but I couldn’t afford to slow my pace to say much more. She watched as I rounded the track.

Jennifer seemed to be behind me now, even though I knew she was already a lap ahead of me and about to lap me again soon. She would be finished before me and on to the other important activities she had planned, I was sure.

I looked ahead to the next turn and then looked back to see where Jennifer was. She had slowed to a snail’s pace, and hanging on to her hand and running beside her was the red-haired girl I had passed. The busiest girl in the school had time to help someone else, and I didn’t. I thought about the Savior as I watched the two of them running together.

I was the only onlooker. Only the Lord and I would ever know about that small kindness. Jennifer didn’t do it for recognition; it was just the way she was. That day she became my hero, not because of all the great things she was noted for doing, but because of that simple act of kindness when no one was around but me.

That was quite a while ago, and Jennifer is now taking time out from her busy life to serve a mission in the Philippines. I often wonder whose hand she is holding now.

[illustration] Illustrated by Sam Lawlor