The year after I turned 12, several things changed in my life. I was ordained a deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood. I was old enough to join the Boy Scout troop in our ward. And I moved up from elementary school to junior high school.
Just beginning the seventh grade brought many new experiences. I rode a bus to school every day. I had seven teachers instead of one. I put my backpack, lunch sack, and jacket in a locker each morning—no more coat hooks or cubbyholes. And I had different books and papers for every class.
I was especially proud of the three-ring binder that had reams of blue-ruled notepaper and folders for each subject. By the time the first few weeks of school had gone by, each folder was thick with homework assignments, handouts, and other school papers.
Going to school with eighth-and ninth-grade students was one of the biggest changes of all. I often felt small and unnoticed as I hurried down the halls, dodging classmates and strangers who seemed much more confident than I ever felt.
In several of my classes, I sat with students who were two and even three years older than I was. My first-year Spanish class had students from all three grade levels: seventh, eighth, and ninth. One boy, a ninth-grader named Jared, was tall, liked to talk, and frequently said things that made the students and even our teacher, Mr. Bishop, laugh.
I wanted to do that, too, but there were so many new things all around me that I often felt shy and usually stayed quiet. I was not small, but many of my fellow seventh graders were bigger than I was, and all my friends from elementary had lunch at a different hour.
One thing that made it difficult for me to adjust and make new friends was that during this first year I endured my share of rough pranks that junior high school students often play. I remember one in particular.
I was walking by the school’s main office between classes, in an area where dozens of students were hurrying past in both directions. I had my usual armload of books, including my three-ring binder, nestled against my hip.
Suddenly another student stepped up behind me, reached out a hand, and gave the books a hard flip. They flew out of my grasp and slid across the floor ahead of me. When the binder landed, it snapped open and folders and papers went spinning everywhere.
It was hard not to cry as I got down on my hands and knees and tried to scoop everything up as quickly as I could. I felt certain everyone was watching me, which only made me feel worse. Then a ninth-grade girl knelt down beside me and asked if I was okay. She smiled, squeezed my arm, and started to help me gather my books and papers.
Following her example, a tall boy came over and asked me if I’d seen who had knocked my books out of my arms. It was Jared from first-year Spanish, and he too knelt down to help.
I never learned the ninth-grade girl’s name, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness. Her actions reminded me of the Book of Mormon story of King Benjamin, who taught his people to always treat each other with love. And like Ammon, the great Book of Mormon missionary, this unknown friend of mine set an example by her actions that others followed.
“Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes.” —Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Virtue of Kindness,” Ensign, May 2005, 26.