“I Choose to Be a Friend,” Friend, Mar. 2000, 16
Sue twisted the CTR ring on her finger. She was only half-listening to her teacher, Miss Williams, tell about when to indent for a new paragraph. Mostly she just looked at the back of Myrtle’s head. As usual, the girl’s faded red hair stuck out in tangles.
At least she could comb it, even if she doesn’t wash it, Sue thought.
Suddenly it seemed like her CTR ring pinched her finger. She turned it around and around, feeling the raised Choose the Right letters. She wished she knew if not choosing to do something right was as bad as choosing to do wrong. …
Just then Myrtle turned around and smiled at Sue. She was sure now that Myrtle wanted to be on her kickball team at recess.
Miss Williams placed the language book on her desk and walked to the door. The recess bell rang, and Sue lined up with the other fourth graders.
And who has a name like “Myrtle”? Maybe someone’s great-grandmother. Nobody Sue knew had such an old-fashioned name. Myrtle was new to their school, and she wore old, wrinkled dresses and funny shoes with socks that crept down under her heels. Because she moved around so much, she had been kept back a grade. So she was taller than every other kid in the fourth grade. She smiled a lot, tried hard to be friends with her classmates, and seemed not to recognize that they all wore clean, neat clothes and that they pretended not to see her when they chose sides for kickball games.
Sue tried to ignore her best friend, Maryann, who chattered at her side. She had to make up her mind what she was going to do. Ahead of her stood Myrtle, waiting for her at the drinking fountain, smiling.
In her head, Sue could hear Miss Williams telling how Myrtle’s family moved around a lot, how lonely she was, how much she needed a friend. As she got closer to Myrtle, Sue touched her CTR ring again.
Just as she got near Myrtle, Maryann pulled at Sue’s arm. “Sue! You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said!” she complained. “You have to pick Bradley and Rosie first!” She dragged Sue past Myrtle. “First, after me, of course!”
Sue stole a glance back at Myrtle. The new girl’s big blue eyes looked teary. Sue shook her head quickly to rid herself of the sad face behind her, then hurried outside to the field. This was her week as a team captain. She wanted to choose the best players. The other captain was Jason, who was in her Primary class.
When everyone was chosen, Myrtle was left standing. “Sorry, Myrtle,” Jason said. “I guess you’ll have to sit this one out. It’ll make the teams uneven, if you play.”
Sue looked away. Even Myrtle knew that all it would take was for someone on the other team to run twice. This is what Sister Marvin meant last Sunday when she reminded us to use our CTR rings to help us choose the right. But it’s Jason’s turn to choose, not mine. …
Later, at lunch, Sue and Maryann stood in the doorway, looking for good seats. Myrtle sat sideways, watching the doorway, her hand on the empty place beside her, saving a seat. She was looking directly at Sue, and she was smiling.
But Maryann said, “There’s Rosie and Jason! They’re waving to us!” Sue followed Maryann, avoiding Myrtle. She pretended not to see how Myrtle’s shoulders slumped downward as she turned around, taking her hand off the empty place beside her.
Sue had a pain in her chest all through lunch. She couldn’t help but notice that none of her classmates sat beside Myrtle. When Maryann made a rude remark about Myrtle and everyone else laughed, Sue was silent. She was thinking about how she would feel if the others laughed at her.
The next day Myrtle was again standing in the kickball line, waiting to be chosen. Sue was cross. Why doesn’t she just go swing, or do something with someone else? Why does she always stand there, waiting to be chosen for a game no one wants her to play? Again, Sue felt the pinch of her CTR ring. A little rhyme that her grandma had taught her flashed through her mind: “Kindness is a little thing, but lots of happiness it does bring.”
Sue squared her shoulders and stepped forward to make her first choice. Even though she always chose Maryann first, Sue looked at Myrtle and smiled—really smiled—and declared, “I choose Myrtle.”
Over Maryann’s wail of disappointment and the murmurs of surprise from her other classmates, Sue stood firm. With a really happy smile, Myrtle stepped close beside Sue. When everyone was chosen and someone on Jason’s team had been picked to run twice, the game began.
Sue’s team was up first. She was determined to make this work, so she chose Myrtle to kick first. Myrtle lowered her shoulders, drew back her right leg, and kicked the ball squarely into the weeds at the back of the outfield. As she ran around the bases, everyone in the fourth grade, even Jason’s team, chanted her name. “Hurray for Myrtle! Run, Myrtle, run!”
And when she pounded into home, every fourth grader on both teams was clapping for her.
Maryann went over to her. “You did great, Myrtle!” she said. “No one has ever kicked a ball that far before!”
Myrtle grinned and took her place at the end of the line. Sue smiled at Myrtle, wishing she had congratulated Myrtle first. She held up her thumb. “Good job!”
When Sue’s team went out to the field, Myrtle was the one who seemed to catch every ball. Suddenly Myrtle was everyone’s best friend.
Three weeks later, Myrtle did not show up for school on Monday morning.
“Where is Myrtle?” everyone asked.
Miss Williams looked sad. “Myrtle’s family moved away. She will not be coming to this school again.”
Sue looked down at her CTR ring. She did not want anyone to see her cry. She was sorry Myrtle had moved away, but she was glad that she had been a friend. She wished that she had been quicker to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Still, she had chosen to be a friend. And inside, she felt like smiling—just like Myrtle did.