“Randa’s Reception,” New Era, Oct. 1993, 9
It was at the beginning of seventh grade that I first met Randa. She was assigned to the desk right behind mine.
Her family had just moved into the area. She was the oldest child and only girl in a family with six children. Her family was neither rich nor poor. They fit right in with everyone else. In fact, the only thing unusual about the family was Randa.
Randa had been born with a serious malformation of the face. The first thing I noticed about her was a long, purple scar down her cheek. It was a result of one of many corrective surgeries. There would be many more surgeries in her future. The left lens in her eyeglasses was frosted to help conceal an artificial eye.
Now, I used to have a case of acne that I thought was terminal. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I would think, “Someday I’m going to grow out of this.” Whenever Randa looked in the mirror, she knew she was not going to grow out of it.
Still, Randa and I ended up talking about everything during class. I teased her unmercifully, and she would tease me right back, with a measure added. We developed a friendship and began to share things besides sharp retorts with each other.
One of the subjects we talked about frequently was her dream of her wedding reception. Randa described the flowers, the decorations, the bridesmaids’ dresses, even the music. She had indomitable optimism. I would quietly listen to her and think, “Randa, why do you do this? There isn’t going to be a wedding.”
Her physical problems created some tough social situations. I admit that my classmates and I were not as sensitive as we should have been. We made all sorts of comments about her—not all nice. I’m embarrassed to say that I made my share of “funny” remarks at her expense.
During our high school years she ran for cheerleader. I suppose she was hoping that a success would win her some social acceptance. But Randa’s dreams were ravaged by the electoral process.
Dances weren’t easy for Randa either. One night, at a church dance, one of the brighter guys made a proposition. You could show real courage by asking the “ugliest” girl there for a dance. Better yet, you could stay for a second dance just to prove your courage had staying power. That was followed by a lot of laughter, and a lot of “I will if you will” promises.
Suddenly one of the guys broke away from the group and asked Randa for a dance. Then he stayed for a second. When he returned to our group, he said, “Okay guys, you promised.” One by one, they asked Randa to dance, and stayed for a second. Randa danced 16 times that night. She had the time of her life—only to learn later that she was the object of a cruel joke.
But Randa did have a date to all the formal dances—with her father. She always had a nice formal and a corsage, just like the other girls. Her father would be dressed in a nice Sunday suit, just like the other guys. Randa and her father would dance a few dances and sit out a few, just like the rest of us. At about 10:00 P.M., Randa and her father would go home, not like the rest of us. We would go to a late dinner or party.
But life was not bad for Randa. She was blessed with a lot of spunk and a great attitude. She had a beautiful singing voice and sang whenever she was asked. She had a wonderful sense of humor, too. In spite of her painful experiences, she was not introverted. She pursued her dreams boldly. Randa was determined to live life as it came.
After high school, our paths parted. I went to college and served a mission while Randa pursued higher education as well.
A short time after returning from my mission, I received an invitation to what I considered an amazing social function. It was Randa’s wedding reception! I stepped into the cultural hall of her ward and looked around with a mixture of awe and satisfaction. The flowers, the decorations, the bridesmaids’ dresses, even the music were exactly as she had described them all those years before. In the reception line I met Randa’s husband, who was tall, dark, and handsome. He knew who he was and what is important in life. I was very impressed.
Years later, at a class reunion, I was happy to find that Randa was still reaching for the stars with her usual enthusiasm. She’d made some outstanding achievements. She had seven healthy children. She had served as campaign manager for a successful candidate for the U.S. Congress. She had been elected to the school board in her community. And while juggling all these demands, Randa went back to college and completed a bachelor’s degree so she could qualify to teach the handicapped.
It took me many years to learn how well Heavenly Father knows and loves each one of us. And when I finally had a better idea of this, I realized I had some sore repenting to do for the offenses I had caused Randa.
I called her and asked her forgiveness for all the unkind things I had said and done at her expense. She could only remember one time I was cruel. Her memory had been much kinder to me than mine was. She freely forgave me.
I hope that in the future I’ll have the courage to behave the way I believe. If I had done that in seventh grade and all the grades that followed, life could have been more gratifying for Randa. It’s such a little thing—to ask to be treated with kindness. It’s really only a little thing to be kind. I realize, though, that the little things, done consistently, make a very big difference.