“A Hug for Frederick,” Ensign, Oct. 1992, 44
I was nineteen years old and had been hired as a teacher’s aide for a summer program that prepared children for kindergarten. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, they were adorable, eager for attention, and free with their affection. They were easy to love—all except Frederick.
Frederick, a tall, thin little boy, was the class troublemaker. If someone else wanted to ride one of the three tricycles, he would grab the child by the arm and shove him onto the floor. At lunchtime, Frederick would gobble his food, then grab food off the other children’s plates and eat it. Everyone dreaded rest time, because Frederick pinched and poked classmates and stole their blankets.
One day I caught Frederick getting into the teacher’s desk. I insisted that he sit down and told him that as soon as he promised to be a good boy, I would let him participate with classmates again. After fifteen difficult minutes during which I tried to keep him sitting in one place, he reluctantly promised.
Frederick kept his promise for the remaining half hour of school. I was shocked! That was the longest he had ever behaved well. When it was time for him to go, I rewarded him with a pat on the head. When I saw his big grin, I decided that a hug was also in order. “Give me a hug,” I said, picking him up.
He looked confused, so I put his arms around my neck and told him to squeeze. He squeezed and I squeezed back. His face was full of joy and bewilderment. Had he never been hugged before? Could it be that all this bundle of mischief needed was love?
It seemed too simple a solution, but the next day, Frederick was surprisingly well behaved. I offered to play a number game with him. He sat by my side all during lunch, looking like an honored guest. He ate politely, and after lunch, he asked if I would rest by him.
As the summer progressed, we were all amazed by the change in Frederick. I had been too busy scolding, disciplining, and trying to control him to even think about loving him. I had stumbled through a newly opened door when I showed him my love for him. Once again, Christ’s way proved to be the most effective.
On our last field trip of the summer, we went to a florist’s shop. After our tour, each of the children received a long-stemmed carnation. When I jokingly complained that I hadn’t gotten one, Frederick tenderly gave me his. Frederick had learned to love; and I had learned a lesson for life.