“Singing with Annie,” New Era, Jan. 2011, 46
When a teacher recommended me to help in the special needs seminary class, I accepted, but not without some serious doubts. My hesitations were purely selfish but were doubts nonetheless. Many questions ran through my mind: How would I interact with them? What if they didn’t like me? Why did they choose me when I had such a busy schedule and wanted to enjoy my time in seminary?
I would love to say that when I went to the class for the first time, all my doubts washed away and I opened my arms to these amazing youth. But I did not. I was standoffish and gave the smallest effort possible.
However, one experience I had in this class changed my perspective. One day, the teacher decided to sing hymns the entire class period. I sat next to a girl named Annie who was severely autistic. She couldn’t talk and could hardly even communicate through the very little sign language that she knew. The teacher told me that she loved it when people would pat out the beat of the music to her on her arm or leg, as well as sing to her. After an hour of patting her arm, my arm felt like it would soon fall off. Also, I have always known that I was not blessed with a wonderful singing voice. I get embarrassed to sing in front of other people, because I know I don’t sing well. But Annie didn’t care. She was so happy, just sitting there smiling and smiling. Whenever I would stop singing or patting, she would get very agitated and start shaking or moaning. But as soon as I would start singing again, she would be right back to smiling (even if I was noticeably off-key). I felt the Spirit so strong as we sang “The Spirit of God” (Hymns, no. 2), and Annie smiled up at me from her wheelchair.
I would often get discouraged in that class because I was not seeing the results of my efforts come out in the students. I am extremely goal-oriented, and I expect clear results from my hard work. But this one experience showed me that if I would just forget myself, I would make a difference for these incredible people. What I wasn’t aware of was that they were making a bigger impact on my life by their amazing spirits and the goodness that radiates from them.