There are times being a teacher over a rambunctious group of four, , or in church, it may seem as though much of what we wish to impart barely makes it past their little ears. While it is important to teach the same lessons in the hopes of something getting through to them, we must not forget to listen back. Kids of every shape and form have something to teach us, even when we believe it is the adults who are supposed to be the teachers. My sister-in-law recently told me of an extraordinary experience she had while in her calling as Primary President (leader over the children 3-11 years old). She first related to me one of her favorite quotes: “Don’t overestimate a child’s abilities, but never underestimate their capabilities.” Placed under her and the other leaders care were several autistic children. One in particular, we’ll call him John, was severely limited in ways which did not allow him to participate nor contribute much to the two hours of Primary each Sunday. Every once in a while, however, something would happen to let them see the extraordinary child who lay within. One time his class was discussing Nephi from the Book of Mormon, where he was commanded, much like Noah, to build a ship. About five minutes into the lesson John called out, “Pirate Ship!” He did this several times, and no one understood why until one person figured it out. In John’s mind Nephi must have been a pirate because he was building a ship and, after all, only Pirates need ships. He must have watched Disney’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ recently. This idea led them to their second, and much more important, realization. John had been listening to every word. Though it didn’t seem like anything was sinking in, this sweet child was learning.
Another experience they had with John happened as they played a game during their singing time. A child would be chosen to stand up front and the pianist would play a song. The challenge was to see if the child could fill in the words. Every time it was John’s turn he would not sing. He wouldn’t even say a word. Yet the leaders always made a point to give him his very own turn. As they played this game one particular Sunday, John was next in line. Everyone knew what would happen: the pianist would play, John wouldn’t respond, and it would be the next child’s turn. As the piano played the tune to “I Am a Child of God”, he sang it out loud and clear for everyone to hear for the very first time. They had finally given John ‘his’ song to sing. Every child we have to teach, whether at home or at church, has so much to bless us with if we take the time to watch and listen. In those precious moments, all the headaches and heartaches become worth the effort. In those moments, they become our teachers. (To listen to “I Am a Child of God” go to www.lds.org/churchmusic and select Music)