Sunbeam Love

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“Sunbeam Love,” Ensign, Aug. 1995, 71

Sunbeam Love

On top of my desk sits an unusual paperweight. Actually it isn’t a paperweight at all. It’s a beanbag, bright blue with a yellow sun centered on each side. I call it a paperweight only to justify its presence on my desk. I put it there to remind me each day of a personal miracle that I call “Sunbeam love.”

It began with a call to teach Primary just seven months after my returning to church following a five-year absence. My past struggles had led to renewed spiritual commitments and had made me strong. I was comfortable with my new beginnings, confident, and hungry to serve.

When my first Primary day arrived, I was the first teacher seated in the room. I knew my class would be the youngest, and I knew they were fresh out of the Primary nursery. But the significance of these facts hadn’t registered clearly in my planning. As each child arrived, I was truly shocked at how far down I had to look to find the tops of their little heads. They were just babies!

The sophisticated lesson I had prepared, as well as my tailored suit and silk blouse, now seemed out of touch. As they gathered around, their faces looked up apprehensively. Do they even talk yet? I wondered, horrified at the possibilities. During opening exercises I examined my pupils. How unique each one was—blond, brunette, freckled, petite, and plump. As I captured an occasional glance, their faces revealed further individuality. I saw anticipation, mischief, boredom, and fear.

When the time came, I somehow managed to lead them down the hall and start the lesson. For an introduction I had planned a beanbag game. I had even made the beanbag myself, and I was sure I had made the perfect beanbag—despite the fact that mine was much larger than the pattern. With the first toss, I knew once again that I had overestimated the size of these children. One forceful throw of the oversized bag sent a wide-eyed girl sailing backwards, knocked flat, as she bravely tried to absorb the bag’s impact.

I went home feeling just as overwhelmed by my Sunbeams as they were by me. My prayers the next week were pleas for help. I somehow felt this was where I needed to serve.

The next Saturday evening I still had no clear answers. How do I relate to such tiny, tender beings? How do I translate the miracle of the gospel into plain, simple English for three-year-olds? Suddenly my vision focused on a picture on my wall. It was, in fact, my first Primary visual aid, purchased just two weeks before. So beautiful was this portrait of Jesus Christ holding a small child that I had hung it in my bedroom.

I carefully studied the expression of love depicted in Christ’s eyes. New thoughts filled my mind. How much he must love them! How he desires to reassure them of his love! I then realized with perfect clarity that this was exactly the thing the Savior wanted me to do: I must love them in a way that would reassure them of his love.

It was such a simple and beautiful answer. But to me, it seemed I had been asked to perform a miracle. Six painful years as a stepparent, and my subsequent divorce, had left my heart numb—especially to the idea of trying to love someone else’s children again.

Throughout the night I tried to reconcile the conflict between what I knew the Lord wanted me to do and what I felt I could not do. It was only after hours of praying that I was convinced by the Spirit that I could change. The next day, seated on the bench with the Sunbeams, I looked at the questioning faces of the children sitting near me. I felt nervous yet determined as I said over and over in my mind, I’m going to love you.

From that Sunday forth, a personal miracle began to unfold. Each week during our time together as a class, I was guided by the Spirit in the art of loving. And throughout the year, I was loved in return. There were excited waves across the chapel during sacrament meeting, shouted greetings from grocery store aisles, and gifts of oddly shaped cookies.

Panic set in as the year concluded and my glorious row of Sunbeams graduated to the next class. My heart ached wildly for my beloved little friends. Feeling abandoned, I sat numbly, surrounded by eight tiny new strangers.

I managed to go through the motions of being a teacher throughout opening exercises and into class time, where we were to play once again the introductory beanbag game. As I picked up the worn, oversized bag, I paused, remembering this exact Sunday a year before. How overwhelmed I had felt then. How far I realized I had come. The powerful memories carried by this familiar beanbag fueled me with hope. As I met each pair of bright eyes, I saw their pleading looks: “Please love me too.”

And so I did.

Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson

Illustrated by Larry Winborg