“Gooood!” Friend, Oct. 1998, 32
On Sunday, Brother Edwards walked by the driveway where Pete was playing basketball. Brother Edwards was wearing a white shirt and tie, and under his arm he had a book. He stopped and watched Pete sink a jump shot from the corner of the garage.
“Hey, Pete,” he called, “are you coming to church today?”
Pete caught the ball before it could bounce under the fence. He dribbled it between his legs while he looked at Brother Edwards. “Nah,” he said. “Church is boring. Besides, I need to practice using my left hand.”
Pete bounced the ball back and forth, first with one hand, then with the other. Suddenly he spun around and drove hard toward the basket. He used his left hand to gently push the ball up toward the hoop. It touched the backboard and dropped through the net.
“Wow!” said Brother Edwards. “How long did you practice before you learned to do that?”
Pete shrugged. “I don’t know. I practice every day.”
“Every day! Why do you do that?”
“Because I have to. I want to be gooood.”
The next Sunday Brother Edwards stopped again. He was wearing a different tie this time, but under his arm was the same big book. He stood at the top of the driveway and watched Pete, who was concentrating very hard on the basket. Pete turned the ball over in his hand and dribbled it once. Then he took a deep breath, bent his knees, and shot.
The ball hit the inside of the rim and bounced out. It rolled off the back of the car and down the driveway. Brother Edwards stopped it with his foot. “Uh-oh,” he said as he stooped to pick it up. “Did I break your concentration?”
Pete caught the pass from Brother Edwards and shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s OK. I have to get used to it.”
“How many had you hit before that one?” Brother Edwards asked.
“Eight in a row. I need to get to twenty-one without a miss.”
“Why do you have to do that? You’re already a good free-throw shooter.”
“I want to be as good as my big brother,” Pete said. “When he was my age, he hit twenty-one in a row without missing. Now he plays for a college team. He makes eighty-one percent of his free throws. He’s gooood.”
Pete stood at the edge of the driveway, the toe of his sneaker on the painted yellow line. He dribbled the ball slowly and concentrated. He took a breath, bent his knees, and shot.
Brother Edwards waited for the ball to go through the net. “Good shot,” he said. “That’s one.”
Pete smiled and dribbled the ball back to the yellow line. He made another one.
“You know a lot about your brother,” Brother Edwards said. “Is he your hero?”
Pete shrugged. “I don’t know. I like to go to his games and watch him on TV. I saved all the articles about him from the newspaper. I even have the basketball from when his team won the state championship. I could show it to you some time. He signed it.”
“Wow! I’d like to see that.”
Pete was quiet for a moment as he stood at the line, turning the ball over and over in his hand. Finally he spoke. “Yeah, I guess you could say he’s my hero, ‘cause I want to be just like him. He’s the best.”
On Tuesday, Brother Edwards was mowing his lawn when Pete came walking home from school. Pete carried a backpack on one shoulder; with the other hand he was bouncing a ball. Brother Edwards slowed the mower and called across the hedge. “I see you’re still practicing. How was school?”
Pete stopped and adjusted the backpack to the other shoulder, but he kept the ball bouncing. “Oh, you know—just the same stuff over and over. School’s pretty boring.”
“I know what you mean. Sometimes I get tired of mowing this lawn over and over, but I know what would happen if I stopped working at it.”
“Yeah,” Pete said, “I guess it would get pretty bad.”
“By the way, I’ve been thinking about what you said.”
Pete looked surprised. “I didn’t say anything.”
“Sure you did. On Sunday. About practicing. You said you practice all the time so you can be good, like your brother.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Pete. “So?”
“Do you really do it every day?”
“That’s right,” said Pete. “If I didn’t practice, I’d forget what I already learned.”
Brother Edwards was amazed. “Some people would think that that was pretty boring—doing the same things over and over. Some people would wonder why you work so hard at it.”
“It isn’t boring. I like practicing, and I like working hard.” He dribbled behind his back without looking. “And someday all the work is going to pay off.” He went off down the street with the basketball still going. “Like I said,” he called back, “I’m going to be like my brother, and he’s the best.”
The next Sunday, Brother Edwards walked right on by. “Hey,” called Pete, “aren’t you going to stop for a minute?”
“Maybe just for a minute,” said Brother Edwards, “but I have to hurry. I’m on my way to practice.”
“I thought you were going to church,” said Pete.
“I am. I’m going there to practice. I have a hero, too, you know.”
“No way,” said Pete. “You have a hero? Who is he? What team does he play for?”
“He doesn’t play for any team.”
“Oh,” said Pete. “Is he one of those old guys? Have I ever heard of him?”
“Well, He did live a long time ago, but I’ll bet you’ve heard of Him. He’s the best kind of gooood. And the cool thing is, He can be everybody’s hero.”
Pete couldn’t believe his ears. He tried to think of all the famous names he knew, but he couldn’t guess. “Who is it?” he said. “Tell me, tell me.”
Brother Edwards laughed. “I’ll give you a hint. This book is all about Him.” He held out the blue book.
Pete stepped closer. “Hey, that’s the Book of Mormon. Oh, I know what you mean—you’re talking about Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t count. Jesus isn’t like a real hero.”
“Sure He is. He’s my hero. He was the best at everything He did. And wouldn’t you agree that He’s gooood?”
“Yeah, He was, but He’s not even alive.”
“Sure He is. He’s alive, and some people have seen Him. Some day I’m going to meet Him too.”
Pete was holding the ball under his arm and looking funny at Brother Edwards. “But why do you go to church?” he said. “Church is boring.”
“I don’t think so. I like learning about my hero, just like you like practicing the same shot over and over. That would seem pretty boring to me. Or reading all those newspaper articles. I bet you don’t think that’s boring.”
“Nope—it’s kind of fun. I guess it’s because I know my brother, and … I want to be like him so much. …”
On the fourth Sunday, Pete was shooting layups. He didn’t seem to be very interested, and he missed most of the shots. When he saw Brother Edwards, he dropped the ball on the grass. “Hey,” he called, “wait up. I have something to show you.” He ran into his house and was gone for a while. When he came back out, he had a book in his hand. “Look at this,” he called as he ran down the drive. “Look what my brother sent me.” Brother Edwards could see it was the Book of Mormon. Pete opened it and turned the pages until he came to a picture of Jesus. “See? It has all these stories about things Jesus did.”
“That’s pretty cool,” Brother Edwards said. “It’s just like mine. You could bring it to church with you. …” Suddenly Brother Edwards noticed that Pete wasn’t wearing his grubbies. “Are you coming to church today, Pete?”
Pete smiled. “Of course,” he said. “I have to come to church. I have to practice, don’t I?”
Brother Edwards laughed. “Well,” he said as they walked down the street together, “only if you want to be gooood.”