“The New Boy,” Friend, Oct. 2004, 36
It was a beautiful fall morning. “Too nice a day,” Chase thought, “to have to go to school.” As he pedaled his bike, he looked at the clear blue sky and the bright reds and yellows of the newly turned autumn leaves. This was a day for playing tag football, jumping in huge piles of leaves, catching frogs by the stream—not a day for learning about nouns and fractions and presidents. Chase rode past the sign that read “Ridgecrest Elementary,” then parked his bike at the bike rack.
“Hey, Chase!” Derek called.
“Hey, what’s up, Derek?” Chase called back.
“I got a new video game on Saturday,” Derek said. “Do you want to come over to my house after dinner tonight and play it?”
“I can’t. It’s Monday, family night—you know, when we all do something together. Maybe I can come over tomorrow night.”
Chase and Derek got to their seats just before the bell rang. Chase noticed a boy he had never seen sitting toward the front of the room. He had straight shiny hair the color of coal. On the chalkboard in big letters Mrs. May had written Gishi Ren.
“Good morning, class,” Mrs. May said, rising from her desk. “I want to introduce you to a new student.” She motioned for the new boy to come stand beside her. “I’ve written his name on the blackboard. It’s pronounced Yee-she Ren. Let’s all say ‘Welcome, Gishi.’”
Gishi hung his head bashfully as the class repeated the welcome. Chase’s eyes met Derek’s. Derek made a face and rolled his eyes.
“Gishi is from China,” Mrs. May explained. “His father has been living here for a year doing research at the university. Now Gishi and his mother have come to join him.”
Later that morning at recess, Chase and Derek played foursquare with some friends. Bouncing the ball, Derek whispered, “Watch this.” He pointed to Gishi, who stood a few feet away with his back toward them. Derek threw the big red ball hard. It bounced off the back of Gishi’s head.
When Gishi turned around, Derek yelled cheerfully, “Oh, sorry,” and winked at his friends. Gishi smiled timidly.
At lunch, Chase and Derek sat together as usual. Derek was describing his new video game. “It’s really cool. It’s like you’re in a jungle, and you’re looking for a diamond mine, and … hey, look, there’s the new kid.” Gishi spotted Chase and Derek and started walking toward them.
“Oh, no,” Derek said. “He’d better not sit with us.” But Gishi did just that. He smiled, nodded, and began eating.
Derek turned to Chase. “We can’t let him think he’s allowed to eat with us every day. Come on, let’s move.”
Chase felt sorry for Gishi. For a moment, he considered staying at the table. But when Derek got up and walked to another one, Chase followed him. Derek continued talking about his new video game, but Chase was only half listening. He kept glancing over at Gishi eating all alone.
That night, Chase’s parents gathered the family together for family home evening. After the opening prayer, Chase’s father said, “Tonight we’re going to talk about two of your ancestors—your great-great-grandparents, Joshua and Elizabeth McGowan.
“I think you older children have heard about them already, but Chase and Emily probably haven’t. I just felt impressed that I should tell you their story. As a young man, Joshua joined the Church in England and soon afterward came to America and settled in Kirtland, Ohio. There he met a lovely young woman named Elizabeth Sanders, who was also a member of the Church. They married and bought a farm with money Joshua had saved in England.
“One night,” Chase’s father continued, “an angry mob came and burned all their crops. They burned the barn and their farmhouse. Everything was destroyed. Elizabeth and Joshua had to start all over. Joshua became a blacksmith, and he did that for the rest of his life. They moved to Nauvoo and then later went to Utah with the Saints.”
“But wait—I don’t understand why those people burned their farm,” Chase interrupted.
“Simply because Joshua and Elizabeth were members of the Church,” Dad explained.
“But they must have done something to make those people so mad,” Chase insisted.
“No, Son, they didn’t do anything. It’s just that back then, being a member of the Church was often dangerous. Many people didn’t like members of the Church.”
“Because they were different. They belonged to a new religion. Most folks didn’t know what the Church was really about. It’s just human nature, I guess, for some people to resent anything that’s new or different.”
“Well, it doesn’t make sense, Dad.” Chase frowned.
“No, Son, it doesn’t.”
That night Chase lay awake thinking about Joshua and Elizabeth and Derek and Gishi.
Tuesday morning was cold and cloudy. It wasn’t hard for Chase to go to school on such a dreary day. As he parked his bike at the rack, Chase heard Derek’s voice coming from the playground.
As he walked over, Chase saw Derek pointing his finger and making fun of Gishi. Gishi bowed his head and looked nervously at the crowd forming around him. Some of the boys and girls snickered.
Chase ran up to Derek. “Knock it off!”
“You heard me, Derek. Leave him alone.” Chase looked Derek right in the eye so he would know he was serious. Derek stared back at Chase. Finally, Derek shrugged.
“I was just fooling around,” Derek muttered as he walked away.
“Are you OK?” Chase asked Gishi.
“Believe it or not, Derek’s really not so bad. I think he just needs time to get to know you.”
Gishi said nothing, but nodded.
Then Chase asked, “Do you want to come to my house after school and play video games?”
Gishi smiled shyly. “Yes. Fine. You live where?” Chase wrote down his address and gave it to Gishi.
That afternoon, the two boys played video games for a while, then talked about some of the differences between English and Chinese. They took turns pantomiming various actions and having the other say the word for the action in his language.
Gishi wrote something on a paper and showed it to Chase. “This is you in Chinese.”
Chase looked at the pencil strokes shooting out at different angles. “You mean that’s the word for ‘Chase’ in Chinese?”
“No,” Gishi said. “Friend.”
“Love one another. Be kind to one another despite our … differences.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Doctrine of Inclusion,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 38.