“Troy’s Friend,” Tambuli, June 1986, 23
I came out of the bishop’s office wondering how I could ever be the Primary president I had just told the bishop I would be. I had been taught that with the Lord’s help we can do anything that is asked of us, but this time I truly felt the weight of my new responsibility.
The first thing I was supposed to do was to let the bishop know who I wanted for counselors. Being new in the ward, I didn’t know many people, even though we lived in the area where my husband had been raised. But the bishop told me to make it a matter of prayer and fasting, and it was amazing to me to see this principle work. During the week I seemed to be drawn to two ladies’ names. These special women did become my counselors, and as time went on I could see the influence of the Lord in the matter.
Together and with the help of the Spirit we chose our secretary. She was a dependable, friendly mother of five who had always been dedicated to the Church. We knew we could depend on her to be there every week.
Our first challenge was to get to know each child and teacher personally. In particular we noticed one ten-year-old boy who was the only one in his class. His name was Troy. His attendance had begun to drop off as he was assigned one teacher after another, and he continued to miss Primary often. Several times we heard his teachers say, “Why prepare a lesson just for one child, when he usually doesn’t even show up? I’m wasting my time.”
There were suggestions that we move Troy forward or move him back a class so that he could be with a larger group. We tried both. Before long, Troy wasn’t coming to Primary at all. We sensed a real loss, and as a Primary presidency we decided to fast and pray about how to help Troy.
Once again I was amazed to see this principle at work. When we met, we all seemed to have our thoughts turned to our secretary, though we wondered how we could ever replace her.
When I talked to her, I found that she had just completed the Teacher Development Basic Course. We gave her name to the bishop and told him we felt certain Jackie was the one the Lord wanted to help Troy. She accepted the position, knowing it was a class with only one boy who often didn’t come; and she, too, had heard other teachers talk about how hard he was to handle and how discouraging it was to teach just one child. Nevertheless, Jackie tackled this teaching job with a very positive attitude and a feeling of love towards a boy who would very likely give her every reason not to love him.
I made it a point to tell Troy that he had a great new teacher. Unconvinced, he missed Primary that week, and the next.
But as the weeks slipped by, Troy occasionally came to Primary as if checking to see if his teacher really was there to teach just him. Jackie always was. And many times she went to Troy’s home to get him to come.
Jackie prayed often to know how she might be able to reach him. One night as she was thinking about Troy just before going to sleep, the thought came so strongly to her: “Be his friend.”
We gradually watched this ten-year-old boy being loved right back into Primary. There seemed to be a special relationship between Troy and Jackie, his friend. She taught him in the good, usual ways and used the Scouting program for the many fun and interesting activities she created for Troy. Those invaluable teaching moments were used so well by a dedicated teacher who truly knew the value of one child. It wasn’t long before we had perfect attendance from Troy.
Jackie remained Troy’s teacher, advancing with him until he graduated from Primary. Everyone was very proud of him. There were few who knew that if it hadn’t been for the efforts of one special teacher, it just wouldn’t have happened.
Not long after his graduation, Troy developed a serious infection around his heart and, critically ill, was taken to the Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was many weeks before he began to slowly improve. Troy’s mother remembers how amazed everyone was as he taught both nurses and the other patients around him about the gospel. He was not afraid to inquire about their religious faith, and his parents noticed that he was teaching the same basic principles he had learned from his Primary teacher and in his home.
Troy did not recover, and we were greatly sorrowed when we heard he died. He was only thirteen years old. The ward and community were stricken with this news. Most devastated were his family, who had to let go of many hopes and dreams for Troy.
As the plans for his funeral were made, Troy’s parents chose someone to give his life sketch who had been especially close to him—his former Primary teacher. As she spoke that day, everyone could feel her love for Troy, and we understood why he had responded to her.
The years have come and gone, but I have never forgotten this experience. I know that the worth of one soul is great in the sight of our Heavenly Father. That is a testimony I will always have because of Troy and Jackie.