Roberto’s Valentines
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“Roberto’s Valentines,” Friend, Feb. 1999, 28

Fiction:

Roberto’s Valentines

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you (John 13:34).

Roberto frowned. This was only his second time at Primary since he had moved from Chile to America, and already his teacher was telling the class she loved him.

How can she say such a thing? Roberto wondered. She does not even know me. And besides, why should anyone love a chubby boy who doesn’t have nice clothes to wear? Tears threatened to fill his eyes as he thought of the many relatives and friends he had left behind in South America. He had been so lonely since his father had died. He and his mother had come to Utah so that she could learn English and attend Brigham Young University.

“I have made each of you a special valentine,” Sister Porter said, handing each child a shiny foil heart on which she had written “I love you.” Roberto took his but shrugged off the hug his teacher tried to give him. Later, when he got home, he tore up the card and threw it in the garbage.

All that week, Roberto felt very sad. During class, he looked out the window and daydreamed about moving back to Chile. He was never going to fit in here.

On Thursday afternoon, Roberto walked home from school. He forgot all about locking the door behind him when he saw a note from his mother taped to the refrigerator: “I’m taking a test. I’ll be back at 5:30. Read the Friends Sister Porter dropped off for you.”

After fixing himself a snack, Roberto began to leaf through the magazines.

First he looked at the pictures. Then he started to read a few stories. After a while he noticed that the sad and lonely feelings were starting to go away.

Then he remembered the unkind things some children had said on the school bus that morning when they thought that he couldn’t hear. One of the children had been in his Primary class! Hurt and anger began to build up inside him again until he looked down at the magazine in his hands. There was a picture of the Savior with little children all around Him. Roberto was surprised to find tears of happiness in his eyes. It was almost as if a voice was saying to him, “Jesus loves you, Roberto.”

A feeling of warmth and love surrounded him, and he knew somehow that the Savior truly did know him and love him. He was filled with hope and an overwhelming assurance that in time he would have many friends in his new school and ward.

Roberto thought back to Sunday and how Sister Porter must have felt when he pulled away from her hug. I will make her a valentine, he decided, jumping up and gathering paper and crayons. Then he remembered the new colored markers his mother had bought for her college classes. They were on top of the highest shelf in the kitchen, and he climbed onto the counter to get them.

Stretching as far as he could, he couldn’t quite reach them. He jumped just a little but lost his balance and fell. Twisting awkwardly, he plunged to the floor and heard an ugly cracking noise as he landed on his left arm.

Never had he felt such pain! His arm felt as if it was on fire. He knew that he should telephone his mother, but as soon as he tried to stand, waves of nausea and dizziness washed over him, forcing him back to the floor.

The clock on the wall read ten to four. Swallowing back the tears, Roberto began a silent prayer, asking Heavenly Father to send someone to help. As he worked up his courage to crawl to the phone, a car pulled into the driveway. His mother! Heavenly Father had sent her home early! But then he heard a knock, and after several moments, a familiar voice called his name.

“Help me!” Roberto yelled. “I’m hurt!”

The door opened and Sister Porter looked in. “What happened?” she asked, hurrying to his side.

“My arm—I think I broke it.” Roberto was embarrassed by his tears, but his teacher didn’t say anything about them as she gently helped him up and made him as comfortable as possible on the couch in the living room.

“Where’s your mother?” she asked him then. “Your arm will need to be X-rayed.” After leaving a message at the university for his mother, Sister Porter sat beside him. “I see you’ve been reading the magazines I sent over. Did you find any stories you really liked?”

Roberto felt a little shy, but talking helped keep his mind off the pain. “I read a lot of the stories, but the best part was finding this picture of Jesus with the little children. I have never seen it before.”

Sister Porter studied the picture, and a very peaceful look came to her face. “I think that this is a special picture, too, Roberto. Whenever I look at it, I feel how much love Jesus has for all children.”

Roberto found himself telling his teacher about his feelings on Sunday and all during the week. Then, somewhat sheepishly, he admitted that he had torn up the valentine he had received in class. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I was going to use my mom’s special markers to make you a valentine. They were up high, and when I climbed up to get them, I fell.”

Sister Porter smiled as she gently patted his cheek. “Crayons will do fine.”

Just then Roberto’s mother came in. “Roberto! Oh Roberto!” She knelt beside him, very tenderly feeling the large lump on his arm. “It must be broken. We will go to the hospital right away.” She looked at Sister Porter with worry and pleading in her eyes. “There will be many insurance papers. My English is not very good. …”

“Don’t worry about a thing,” Sister Porter said. “I’ll call my children and have them fix supper. I’ll go with you to the hospital and help you with the papers.”

That evening was a long one. Many people were waiting in the emergency room, and it seemed forever before a nurse called Roberto’s name and he was examined and X-rayed. Never having had a cast before, Roberto felt a bit nervous. But Sister Porter stayed with him the whole time, entertaining him with a story about the time her oldest son had fallen from the backyard swing set and had broken his wrist.

Roberto lay on the examining table after the cast was applied. He was surprised to see that it was almost nine o’clock. “Aren’t you hungry?” he asked his teacher. “Doesn’t your family need you?”

“They’ll be fine,” Sister Porter said, producing a granola bar from the depths of her purse. “Feel up to sharing this?”

They ate and talked while they waited for Roberto’s mother. Sister Porter had found a Spanish-speaking nurse to help his mother fill out the insurance forms.

“Do you know why I came to your house this afternoon?” Sister Porter asked.

Roberto shook his head.

“I was on my way home from running errands, and I felt prompted to stop my van. I think you must have been praying for help. Were you?”

“I was! I asked Heavenly Father to send someone. I am very glad He sent you.” Roberto smiled at his teacher.

Sister Porter asked to borrow a red marking pen from one of the nurses passing by.

“What do you need a marker for?” Roberto asked.

Sister Porter winked and uncapped the pen. “In this country, we have a tradition,” she said. “If someone gets a cast, we write nice messages on it. May I be the first to write on yours?”

Roberto nodded, curious and pleased.

Sister Porter drew a large red heart, then wrote I • U in the middle of it. She grinned mischievously. “This one you can’t rip up and throw away!”

“Don’t worry,” Roberto said, his eyes twinkling. “Today I have learned that you really do love me!”

Illustrated by Julie F. Young