“Who Is the Teacher?” Liahona, Sept. 2000, 44–45
Two years after I was baptized a member of the Church, I began volunteering to teach severely disabled people at a hospital near my home in Japan. It has been many years since then, and I have come to wonder who really is the teacher—me or my students. From them I have learned about forgiveness, thankfulness, patience, faith, and caring.
I remember one class in particular. It consisted of five women and four men. Their average age was about 30. Almost everyone was mute, and they could not feed themselves or perform other basic tasks. When I spoke to them, they communicated in their own ways, usually with some kind of body language.
Although they were physically impaired, they worked to improve the gifts God had given them. To help them recognize their own individual worth, I read a chapter from the Bible to them each day. Once in a while, I would spend the majority of our time together teaching them of God and of our role in life as His children.
One day I wrote on the chalkboard this verse from Psalms: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Ps. 119:71). Immediately after I wrote the words, a 28-year-old man, confined to a wheelchair, began kicking his left leg up and down, showing his approval and testimony of that verse of scripture.
Another student, a 30-year-old man with a heart pure as a child’s, taught me much about gratitude. One morning during the late fall he received a drink of hot water instead of the usual cold water. He was so happy with the hot water he talked of little else the rest of the day.
I remember one woman, about 30 years old, who struggled to learn to use a word processor. She set a goal to learn to use it, and it took her a year. She found it difficult because she had little use of her left fingers. But she persevered. Once she learned to use the word processor, she set another goal to improve on what she had learned.
In these and many other ways, my students have taught me that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). As we learn from one another and serve one another, we grow to love one another. The divine spirit I see radiating from each of my students motivates me to live the gospel better, to try to follow the example of the Savior better, to simply be better. I find in them a beauty that transcends the physical and touches the divine.