“I Remember Susan,” Ensign, June 1977, 69–70
She came through the door screaming and crying? “I want to go home.” Her sister pulled her over to me and left her there.
I was a substitute teacher at a military-base school and had received a call the night before from Mrs. Jensen, the regular teacher. “Remember Susan?” she had asked. I had taught for Mrs. Jensen several times that year and did remember Susan a child with a sweet round face, blue eyes, and pretty blond hair cut short.
Mrs. Jensen went on, “Susan has been coming to school crying every day this past week. Her mother insists she come, so her older sister brings her. You just mark her “present” on the roll, and then the secretary or principal will come and take her to the office for the day. I wanted you to know what to expect.”
“What’s making her act this way?” I asked. The last time I had taught in room P-3, Susan had seemed fine. She was a bright, clean, lovable child.
Mrs. Jensen explained, “Susan’s daddy is leaving for a military assignment overseas and will be gone for at least six months. We feel this must be the reason she is so upset.”
Teachers on a military base, where fathers are frequently away from home, often see cases similar to Susan’s, but this one seemed extreme. The teachers and principal try to counsel with a child to help him understand—if anyone can—why Daddy must be gone. But in Susan’s case it was to no avail.
“We’ve tried everything,” Mrs. Jensen added, “but we can’t seem to help her. Don’t let her ruin the class for you.”
After this call I knew I must be in school early enough to have everything ready for the earliest students. Then I’d be free to talk with Susan.
I awoke several times that night thinking of her and wondering how I could help. I asked our Father in heaven over and over again, “What can I do? Please help me to know.”
I was at school early the next morning, still not sure what to do. Susan came a little early too, and She was crying as her sister pulled her up the steps to our portable classroom. I went over to the door and said, “Susan, I’m so happy to see you! Come in. We have a fun day planned.”
Tears streaming from her reddened eyes, she came over to me. I took her over by the teacher’s desk and held her close to me. I asked the other children, who were quite used to this by now, to go to their desks and start on the work I had set out for them.
I held her close to me for a minute and then said, “Susan, do you believe in God?”
“Who?” she asked.
“Have you ever heard of God—our Father in heaven? Maybe in Sunday School?”
“Oh, yes,” her eyes brightened. “My Sunday School teacher told me about him.”
“Susan, look at me,” I went on. “I want to tell you something.” The words came out easily, as I prayed they would. “God loves me very much, and he loves you just as much as he loves me. He wants us to be happy, and he will help us if we just ask. I know how hard it is to let your daddy go away, but our Father in heaven will help you so you can still be happy while he is away.
“I’m going to sit here at my desk and say a prayer. I’ll close my eyes and say, ‘Please, Heavenly Father, help Susan so she can still be happy and stay in school with us today.’ And Susan, I want you to go to your desk and say the same prayer. Just close your eyes and talk to him. He will listen to you, and then you will be able to stay with us today, tomorrow, and the next day.”
As she walked back to her seat, the tears stopped, and I did say a silent prayer. Then we started school as usual.
“Good morning, boys and girls. I’m glad to be your teacher again today.” As I talked I couldn’t help but look at Susan, her head bowed as she prayed.
About five minutes later the secretary came to the door and asked softly, “Do you want me to take Susan?”
“Oh, no,” I answered. “She wants to stay here with us.”
The day went on as planned. As the children were doing their papers, I saw Mrs. Reidleback, the principal, at the door. She motioned for me to come outside. As I stepped out the door she said, “What did you do? How did you calm that child down? We’ve tried everything this past week and nothing would work.”
I really wondered if I should tell her, but I swallowed hard and said, “I know, Mrs. Reidleback, that we aren’t supposed to mention God in the classroom, but I felt that on an individual basis it would be okay. I know that when a person believes in a Supreme Being he can meet his everyday problems so much better.” Then I told her exactly what I had told Susan and what had taken place.
“Well, okay,” she said, as she walked away.
I truly expected that I’d never receive another call from that school to substitute; but instead I was offered a chance to fill a staff vacancy and teach full time. Although the offer was attractive, I chose to continue substituting; and every time I taught on the base I watched for Susan. I saw in her a happier, more contented child as she learned to communicate with her Heavenly Father.