“On-the-Spot Friends,” New Era, June 1992, 39
It all started when I went baby-sitting one night for my favorite family, the Tiltons. They have three boys, ranging from seventh grade to diapers. Eric is 12 and he just sat typing away at his computer. Doug is in second grade. He likes robots. Chris is two. He’s just a cutie. All evening I played some sort of space cadet with a transformer in one hand and Chris’s binky in the other. I was mostly around Doug, though. Little did I know.
Mrs. Tilton called two days later to say that Doug had come down with chicken pox. I grimly started counting the days before I, too, fell to the itching red spots, boredom, and fever.
I was concerned about missing school. High school wasn’t getting any easier. But I was most afraid of all my friends not really noticing or caring that I was gone. I could picture a classroom with an empty chair and not a, “Oh, where’s A. J. today?”
They would go on without me and that made me feel empty. I could see my friends walking by my locker and not noticing my absence. They would laugh and talk, and I wouldn’t be with them.
With all this thinking, I got very depressed. I itched, felt icky, had Calamine lotion applied every couple of hours, and had red spots everywhere. Because I had them on my face, I felt especially dreary and hid every time someone came to the house. Mom and Dad laughed over that.
I didn’t go to church or anywhere that weekend of course. But when my mom came home from sacrament meeting on Sunday, she said that a few people had asked where I was. At first I was happy, then a little angry. It wasn’t fair that I had to get this stupid disease and stay home.
Tuesday after school when a blue car drove up, I promptly ducked into the bathroom. But I could hear Sonja and Robin from church. I peeked out to see what they were doing when Mom called me out. They had come to see me! I stepped out gingerly to exclamations of sympathy and caring. I grinned and said, “I feel as bad as I look.”
But that’s not what mattered the most. They had come to see me. They had cared enough. I was even more surprised a minute later when Sonja gave me a package. I opened it and there inside was a Sesame Street coloring book, six crayons, and a chocolate Santa. I couldn’t believe it. I looked up, determined not to cry. All I could say was, “Thank you, oh, thanks so much.” Sonja and Robin smiled.
“You see, it’s sort of an inside joke,” Sonja explained.
“When I was little and broke my leg, Sonja gave me a coloring book, crayons, and a candy bar,” said Robin, grinning up at her older sister.
“Since you’ve already had chicken pox, do you mind getting a little of this stuff on you?” I asked, pointing to the pink lotion on my face and hands. “If you don’t, I’m going to hug you.”
They laughed and didn’t mind at all. I knew then that the book and crayons and the candy didn’t matter half so much as the cheerful words.
I went on through the stages of chicken pox, but something inside me had changed. I had always been the one sort of in the shadows, alone. Now I felt a part of things because somebody cared. The visit made a difference.