Two Boys in the Backyard

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“Two Boys in the Backyard,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 52

Two Boys in the Backyard

They were unkempt and they were causing trouble, but I wanted to respond to them as the Savior would.

One day when I went out to water my garden, I noticed two young boys causing mischief in Mr. Wise’s backyard next door. The boys, looking unclean and scruffy, were busily removing flowerpots and small tools from a shed and, using a ladder, arranging these items on the roof of the shed. I also noticed rakes, hoses, and other implements scattered on the lawn.

Wondering if perhaps the boys were grandchildren of 96-year-old Mr. Wise, I walked over and knocked on the front door. When Mr. Wise answered, I asked, “Do you know that two boys are playing in your toolshed?”

“No,” he said with surprise. “Who are they?”

“I have no idea,” I replied. “Would you like me to go talk with them?”

“Please do,” said Mr. Wise.

As I walked around the house, I asked the Lord for guidance to handle the situation. Remembering Christ’s love for children, I asked myself, “What would the Savior do?” I was not usually calm in unexpected circumstances like this one, but I tried to listen to the Spirit.

My first word to them was “Hello,” and I hoped it sounded friendly rather than nervous. Then I said: “What are you doing?”

The boys were surprised. Staring at me, one of them answered, “Playing.”

“Do your mothers know you’re here?” I asked. They shook their heads. “Mr. Wise’s toolshed is not a good place to play,” I said. “I’m Mrs. Lewis and I live next door. We have a tree house that you could climb in, and swings, and other things. Why don’t you help me clean up Mr. Wise’s tools and then we’ll go next door, if it’s okay with your moms.”

Dumbstruck, the boys climbed down from the roof. I relaxed and began to gather up flowerpots. The boys eyed me for a few moments and then started helping.

As we worked, I talked to them. “What are your names?” I asked.

The red-haired one answered, “I’m Jimmy, and this is James.” Jimmy was nine years old and James was eight, and they lived around the corner in some apartments. I learned that each boy lived with a single mother and several other children and was often left to his own devices.

We were nearly done picking up tools when I noticed the mud-caked ladder rungs. “What should we do about the mud on this ladder?” I asked the boys. Jimmy said, “Let’s get the hose and some rags.” James ran to the faucet and pulled the hose over. Before long everything was clean and tidy.

As I shut the shed door, James asked, “Can we come see your tree house now?”

“Better than that,” I answered. “After you go ask your moms, you can come climb in the tree house and have a picnic up there with my daughters.” Surprised at myself for making such an offer, I watched the boys scamper off. Their hair wasn’t combed and their faces were dirty, but I knew that the Savior loved them as much as he loved me and my family. I could feel the Spirit helping me learn to love them as the Lord loves them.

The boys came to our backyard that day and many days afterward. I never had to wonder what mischief they were up to again. They played in our yard and watched our house when we weren’t home. They even came to Primary with us a time or two.

A couple of days after the toolshed incident, Mr. Wise asked if the boys playing with my daughters were the same boys who had been playing in his shed. I said yes and prepared to defend my actions, but Mr. Wise, who was not a member of the Church, smiled and said, “I was listening at the back door that day. You handled it just as Christ would have.”

I considered that the greatest of compliments. When we strive to follow the example of Christ, we can touch many lives for good.

Illustrated by David Linn

Photography by Craig Dimond