“An Angel in Deed,” Ensign, Dec. 1998, 58–59
When my eldest daughter, Lauren, started school, I looked forward to her afternoon account of the day’s activities. As Christmastime approached, her enthusiasm for the Nativity play was delightful. Each day she would tell me of the various preparations being made for the performance. She sang me the songs and recounted the familiar story of the birth of Jesus with childlike wonder.
One afternoon she announced that she had been chosen to play the part of an angel. She went on to describe the beautiful white dress she would wear and talked excitedly about the golden tinsel that would garland her hair. Over the next few days, as the rehearsals became more intense, her excitement continued to grow, so I was slightly puzzled when she arrived home one afternoon and made no mention of the play.
A few days later, Lauren came home and immediately started rummaging through her box of dress-up clothes. I inquired what she was looking for, and she told me she needed a dull, plain dress to wear for the school play. Puzzled, I asked about her angel costume. She quietly explained that there was a little boy in her class who did not get along with any of the children. His difficulty in fitting in with the others had alienated him from his classmates. This young boy’s role in the play was to be part of the crowd of people in Bethlehem, but despite instruction and rehearsal his constant fidgeting on stage was disruptive. To help keep Charlie quiet, the teacher had asked Lauren to forgo her part as an angel and stand in the crowd scene beside him so that he would not disturb the flow of the performance. Lauren had quietly accepted the change of plans and was now looking for a costume—not only for her but also for Charlie in case he forgot to bring one.
My indignation rose as I absorbed what she was saying. Why should she give up her special part for a troublesome classmate? As I looked at Lauren, however, I held my tongue. Instead, I commended her for her thoughtfulness. Still, a nagging irritation stayed with me throughout the night.
The next day I broached the subject with Mrs. Roberts, her teacher. She told me that recently she had watched a relationship develop between Lauren and Charlie. As other children had scorned him and laughed at his clumsy ways, Lauren had begun to befriend him. It seemed that not only was Lauren helping him through the play but she had also been assigned to sit next to him in class. I related my concern that in looking after Charlie, perhaps my daughter would fall back in her own work. Mrs. Roberts smiled and assured me that Lauren was a bright little girl. “She gets on with her work quickly and efficiently and then spends time helping Charlie with his tasks while others are finishing,”she explained. “Lauren is patient and understanding with him, and his work has improved and his self-confidence has blossomed. By becoming his friend, she has done more for him in three weeks than I, a qualified teacher, have been able to do in three months!”
I left the classroom with a spring in my step. The Christ-like attitude of my five-year-old daughter was humbling. That evening, as the lights came up on the Nativity play, there was a general stir in the audience as the little angels in white dresses and sparkling tinsel halos came on stage. But one mother, at least, recognized the glowing inner beauty of a little girl in a dull blue dress standing in the middle of the Bethlehem crowd scene—holding tightly to Charlie’s hand.