One night, while serving as a youth leader in my ward, I arrived at the church and was not surprised to find a group of young men playing basketball in the gym while they waited for opening exercises to begin. I was surprised, however, to see David. He was relatively new in the ward but had already demonstrated that attending Church-related activities was not a normal part of his routine. Coming to a Young Men activity was a big step.
David did a pretty good job of quietly easing into the group without being noticed—that is, until the basketball rebounded off the rim and went straight at him. He caught the ball and realized it was his turn to take a shot. He dribbled a few times and clumsily threw the ball up toward the hoop. It banged hard off the bottom of the rim and came right back at him, hitting him on the arms he had put up to protect his head. Everyone laughed, and so did David.
The ball then went into the hands of another boy, who mockingly imitated David’s awkward shot. As before, most of the boys laughed, but this time David was not laughing. He had come to be a part of his priests quorum but had become the brunt of their laughter.
David turned to the exit and walked out.
My heart broke for David. I was not sure what to do, but I knew I needed to try anything to get him to stay. I followed David out the door, trying to think of something to say that might help him have the courage to come back.
As I was walking after David, I was surprised to see Dennis, one of the other priests, run past me and put his arm around David. I do not know what he said, but Dennis must have been inspired, for David’s heart was softened and he hesitantly, but willingly, turned around and came back into the church. It was a wonderful moment.
It was only a few weeks later when a similar situation occurred. Some of our ward members, including many of our young men, were practicing for an upcoming theatrical performance. Todd, a priest, was one of the performers. During a rehearsal, someone mockingly mimicked Todd’s performance. He was offended and started walking toward the door dejectedly.
“Oh, no,” I thought, “here we go again.” I felt compelled to follow him outside and encourage him to ignore the offense and come back.
What happened next was a beautiful surprise.
This time it was not Dennis who hurried past me, but David. David, who only a few weeks earlier had been the dejected one, was now the inspired one. He ran up to Todd and, putting his arm around him, pleaded with him to return. Todd accepted the invitation, and within minutes both boys were standing side by side on the stage. David had now successfully convinced another to stay.
As I witnessed this example of the Aaronic Priesthood in action, I was reminded of a statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “We are so busy checking on our own temperatures, we do not notice the burning fevers of others even when we can offer them some of the needed remedies, such as encouragement, kindness, and commendation. The hands which hang down and most need to be lifted up belong to those too discouraged even to reach out anymore” (“Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 23).
David’s hands had been ones that hung down. From the selfless act of one young man to another, David’s hands then became those that lifted up.