“A Gift for Kathryn,” Friend, Nov. 2004, 46
I don’t know what it was about Kathryn. No one really disliked her, but no one liked her, either. She sat quietly at her desk and did her schoolwork. She always got the highest score, but no one competed with her. It was like she wasn’t even part of the class—or the world for that matter.
When the bell rang for recess, most of us bolted for the door, nearly knocking the books from our desks. Not Kathryn. She sat still until everyone was out the door, and then she walked slowly behind.
I remember one day Mr. Ekhert, our fifth-grade teacher, called to her from the pitching mound. “Come on, Kathryn. Come play!”
I heard the boys moan, and I guess she heard them, too. She shook her head and wrapped her legs around the legs of the bench.
She’d played kickball with us before. Whenever anyone pitched the ball, she held out her hands and muttered, “Slow. No bounces.” No matter how fast or bouncy the boys pitched, she’d run toward the red rubber ball, swing her leg, and kick as hard as she could. She always missed. We’d groan, and large red splotches would burn her cheeks.
One day, in the middle of the year, Mr. Ekhert called roll like he always did. “Kathryn? Oh, that’s right.” He paused and marked something in his book. Then with a serious expression he looked up from his roll and said, “Class, do you know where Kathryn is?”
No one answered.
“Does anyone know where she’s been for the past week?”
I shrugged my shoulders and glanced at the other kids, who also seemed unconcerned.
Mr. Ekhert sighed. “She’s quite sick.” He peered at us over his wire-rimmed glasses. “I wonder if there is something any of you can do for her.”
I watched everyone slouch down in their seats, like I did. I thought if I shrunk somehow, maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty.
“Where has she been?” I wondered. “The hospital?” I felt ashamed that I hadn’t even noticed she was gone.
That day as I rode the bus home, I didn’t talk to my friends or even argue with the boy kicking the back of my seat. I stared out the window and thought about Kathryn. I didn’t know why she was so different. I didn’t even know why exactly no one talked to her. She was smart and nice. But she wasn’t pretty and she wasn’t funny; she never laughed at any jokes. She wasn’t good at any sports, but she wasn’t mean, either. I thought about Kathryn for a long time. When I tried to put her out of my mind, I kept seeing her face. “Maybe I should do something for her,” I thought.
That afternoon, my friend Kami and I rode our bikes to the store. As I gazed into the glass-covered candy counter, I saw a box of bracelets I’d never noticed before.
“Look at those.” I nudged Kami with my elbow. She shrugged, but I felt warm inside and knew I needed to buy one of those bracelets for Kathryn.
I counted the change in my pocket. I had exactly enough for the bracelet and a few pieces of candy. I plunked my money down on the counter, and the clerk put the bracelet and candy into a paper bag for me.
On the way home, I didn’t eat a single piece of candy, and when Kami asked for one, I said no. It felt strange, buying a present for someone I hardly knew. All evening I kept looking at the paper bag until finally I went to the closet and found a box to wrap it in.
The next day I felt like butterflies were flying around the back of my throat. I could hardly speak to anyone. When the three-o’clock bell rang, I threw my backpack on my shoulder and walked down the street past the buses. I followed the map my mom had drawn for me until I arrived at the right house. I swallowed and walked up the stairs to the front door.
“Hello,” an older woman said, opening the door.
“Is Kathryn here?” I held the package behind my back.
The woman stared at me in surprise. She pulled the door open and motioned for me to come in, not saying a word.
I don’t remember what her house looked like or any other details—I only remember the stunned look in Kathryn’s eyes as I walked through her bedroom door.
“Hi,” I said, pulling the package from behind my back. I handed it to her.
She took it but didn’t say anything. She opened the card I had written and then ripped a little hole in the package. I felt uncomfortable watching her open it, like I was intruding. She pulled the bracelet out and held it up to the lamp. Then she popped a piece of the candy into her mouth.
I stepped back and said, “I hope you feel better soon. See you at school.” Nervously I tripped out of her bedroom and left.
As I walked back to school, my throat felt swollen. I thought about Kathryn and about the look on her mother’s face when I came to the door. I don’t think anyone had ever gone to her house before.
I stood on the steps in front of the school and watched the late bus come around the corner. I did not know why I kept thinking about Kathryn. I didn’t even know if she would want to be my friend when she came back to school. I didn’t know what to think.
Suddenly, I imagined a smile spread across Kathryn’s face. Goose bumps popped out all over my skin, and I felt warm inside. I hoped I could become Kathryn’s friend when she came back to school. And I hoped maybe others would reach out to her, too. But no matter what happened, I knew I had done the right thing, and I knew that Heavenly Father knew it. He had helped me help Kathryn, and I would never regret it.
“Kindness overcomes the rudeness of selfish intent. Each of us can develop … kindness at home, at school, at work, or at play.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “‘These … Were Our Examples,’” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 61.