“That Johnson Boy!” Friend, Sept. 1990, 2
Keith slammed his books onto the kitchen table and sat down heavily with a sigh. His mother looked up from the letter she was writing. “Tell me about it, Keith.”
“Some boys dumped over Mrs. Peters’s trash can.”
“I didn’t do it. I was a block away when it happened. But by the time she came outside, the boys who did it had run away, and she yelled at me!”
“Did you tell her what happened?”
“She didn’t give me a chance. She said, ‘Aren’t you that Johnson boy? I certainly expected more of you!’ And then she slammed the door! She’s so mean—no wonder nobody likes her.”
“Jason likes her,” Mother reminded him. “I bet she really misses him now that he’s on his mission. He did so much for her.”
Keith looked sad. “I miss him too. I think about him all the time. Couldn’t he come back just for my baptism?”
“No, Keith. But do you know what helps me feel closer to him?”
“Doing something that I know would make Jason happy, something that he might do if he were here. What do you think that he’d do for Mrs. Peters right now?”
Keith spoke quickly. “Clean up her trash.”
“What are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
They found Mrs. Peters in her front yard. She was very happy when they offered their help.
“Thank you so much. I just can’t do as much as I used to since I broke my hip. And I didn’t really think Keith would have done it, since he’s a Johnson boy.”
Keith exchanged glances with Mother. “Mrs. Peters,” he said, “I could bring in your trash can when it’s empty and put it out again next Friday. In fact, I could do it for you every week.”
Mrs. Peters hesitated, “But, Jason—”
“I’m sorry—you remind me so much of your brother. Keith, I’m afraid I can’t afford to pay you.”
“That’s OK, Mrs. Peters. You can pay me the same way you paid Jason.”
Mrs. Peters was smiling now. “Don’t tell me that you like oatmeal cookies too!”
“Of course! I’m a Johnson boy!”
At school the next afternoon Keith was struggling to keep up with his classmates as they ran around the track. Jason had been a fast runner, and sometimes Keith’s teacher, Mr. Lee, would kid him by saying, “Are you sure you’re a Johnson boy?” Last time Keith had answered with a grin, “I got the brains of the family.”
Now Mr. Lee was yelling at the runners, “Keep going! Two more times!” Then he went in to his office.
“Follow me,” a boy in front of Keith called out as he cut across the middle of the track. Everyone laughed and began to follow him.
“Come on, Keith,” called a girl. “This way we won’t have to run so far.”
Keith thought quickly: That’s not honest. Jason wouldn’t do it, and neither will I. He continued his jog around the track.
When Mr. Lee returned, everyone was finishing the run except Keith, who still had another lap to go. He heard his classmates giggle when Mr. Lee said, “That Johnson boy seems slower than usual today.” Keith didn’t know it, but his teacher had stopped the giggles when he added, “And the rest of you seem to have extra energy, so we’ll do jumping jacks while we wait for him!”
When Keith finally finished, Mr. Lee patted his shoulder. “I’m proud of you, Johnson.”
“For being last?” Keith panted.
“No. For being honest. You’re a lot like your brother, after all.”
On Sunday Keith was getting ready to leave for church when the doorbell rang. It was a group of his friends holding bats and balls and baseball mitts. “Hey, Keith,” his neighbor Matthew said, “we’re going to the school to play, and we need another baseman. Can you come with us?”
“No,” mumbled Keith, feeling self-conscious in his Sunday clothes. “I’m going to church.”
“See!” an older boy in the back spoke up loudly. “That’s a Johnson boy for you.”
As the group walked away, Keith could still hear the big boy’s voice. “His brother made the whole school team lose because he wouldn’t play on Sunday, either.”
Keith felt tears sting his eyes, and he quickly closed the door.
“Who was that, Keith?” asked his mother.
Keith spoke sadly. “My friends don’t like me because I can’t play with them on Sunday. Sometimes I wish that I wasn’t a Johnson boy!”
Keith’s mother sat him on the couch next to her and put her arm around him. “Sometimes it’s not easy to do the right thing. It wasn’t always easy for Jason either.”
“No. But he knew that he had an even greater name to live up to than just Johnson. It’s the same name you’ll take upon you when you are baptized.”
“Yes, and you’ll also promise to always remember Jesus and keep His commandments, just as you always think about Jason now and try to do all that he would do.”
“You mean Jason is trying to be like Jesus?”
Keith’s mother nodded.
“Now I really want to be like Jesus and Jason.”
Later, as they entered the church, the bishop shook Keith’s hand. “How’s the Johnson boy?” he asked. “Are you getting excited about your baptism?”
“You bet!” Keith grinned. “Bishop, is it all right if I invite my neighbors Matthew and Mrs. Peters, and my teacher Mr. Lee to my baptism?”
“Sounds like a good idea to me.” The Bishop winked at Keith’s parents and said, “It sounds just like something Jason would do.”