“Robby’s New Words,” Friend, Apr. 1999, 45
“Robert Wood.” Robby frowned as he read his name aloud. All his friends called him Robby. His whole name looked strange and uncomfortable on the bright yellow Primary birthday calendar. It didn’t seem to belong with the names of the church kids. He wasn’t like them. He had only been to church about three times in his whole life. He wouldn’t have come today except that his new teacher, Sister Jensen, had sent him a special invitation and offered him a ride.
Robby liked singing the songs. Sharing Time was interesting, too. When his class was excused, he followed the other children to their classroom. They were way ahead of Sister Jensen. She was pretty old for a Primary teacher, and she stopped to talk with most of the class in the hallway.
Robby chose a seat at the very back of the room, but when he started to sit down, a boy kicked his chair out from under him. An ugly word popped out of Robby’s mouth. He was immediately sorry and blushed a deep red when he saw Sister Jensen standing in the doorway. She must have seen the whole thing.
The girls raised their hands and pointed at Robby. The boys snickered, and Robby wanted to run home. Sister Jensen closed the door and smiled at him. Then, turning to the girls, she said, “Oh, I just love to see so many volunteers for the prayer.”
The girls snatched back their hands, but Sister Jensen still assigned two of them to give prayers. During class, Robby watched Sister Jensen. She smiled a lot. She made Robby feel like he was just as important as the other children.
After class, Sister Jensen hugged each of the children as they left. When it was Robby’s turn, she quietly shut the door. Robby was alone with Sister Jensen, and he knew why. She was going to bawl him out for saying that angry word. Well, at least she hadn’t embarrassed him by doing it in front of everybody.
“I’m so glad you came today, Robert,” Sister Jensen said with a smile.
Robby looked down and traced a big X on the floor with his shoe.
When he didn’t answer, Sister Jensen continued, “I know that you’re embarrassed about what you said. If someone kicked a chair and made me fall, I would be pretty upset, too.”
“They wouldn’t do it to you,” Robby said. “They just do it to me because I’m not a church kid.”
Sister Jensen looked thoughtful as she bent to gather some of her things. When she straightened up, she was wearing her big smile again. “Sit down a minute, Robert,” she said, pointing to a chair.
Robby sat quietly while Sister Jensen pulled a chair up beside him.
“Do you like our bishop?”
Robby thought for a minute. He remembered the time the bishop came to his house when his mother was very sick and couldn’t care for the family. After that, some church ladies came by to help take care of them and his sick mother. The bishop seemed really nice. “Yeah, I think he’s OK.”
“Well, believe it or not, I used to be his Primary teacher.”
“Oh.” Robby nodded. “I guess you could have been; you are pretty old.” Robby blushed when he realized what he’d said.
Sister Jensen laughed heartily. “That’s true! He was a sweet little boy, just like you. You and he have a lot in common—his parents never brought him to church, either. I used to pick him up all the time. He even sat with me in sacrament meeting.
“When he was about your age,” Sister Jensen continued, “he decided to make choices that would help him the rest of his life. He had a little problem with angry words, and he decided that every time he became upset, he’d say ‘How exasperating!’ I told him that that was a good start, but that he also needed to fill his mind with good things. That way only good things would come out of his mouth.”
Robby traced another X on the floor with his other shoe. “Well, maybe when I’m a grown-up, I can do that, too,” he told her.
“But now’s the time to start to make important choices that will bless you throughout your life, including your choice of words.”
“How can words bless me?”
“When you are careful with the words you choose to say, you show others that you care enough about them not to offend them. It helps you gain more friends, and you’re also not offending your Heavenly Father. Besides, when you have good words inside, good actions often follow.”
Robby nodded that he understood, and he helped Sister Jensen gather up the rest of her materials.
The next Sunday, Sister Jensen picked Robby up in time for sacrament meeting. The bishop was conducting and seemed to be having a difficult time with some of the announcements. Finally he put down the paper he was reading, smiled at the ward members, and exclaimed, “How exasperating!”
Robby giggled as Sister Jensen nudged his arm. He leaned over and whispered, “That’s what I’m going to say when I’m mad, too.”
“Good for you, Robby,” Sister Jensen said with a wink.
In the Primary room, Robby again noticed his name on the yellow birthday board. “That’s funny,” he said.
“What’s that?” Sister Jensen asked.
“Last week my name seemed different.”
Sister Jensen looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“Well, last week my name looked out of place up there by the names of the church kids. But today it looks like it belongs.”
Sister Jensen put her arm around Robby, and he noticed tears starting in her eyes. “That’s because you do belong here,” she said.