When I was in the 7th grade I had a history teacher that I really liked. I didn’t care much for history but I loved my teacher. His name was Mr. Jarvis. He had so much faith in his students that every Friday when we took our weekly history quiz he let each student grade their own quiz. After we graded the quiz he would then call out our last name and ask for our grade. One by one we would respond in marine-type language. For example, if you got an “A” you said Alpha. “B” was Beta, “C” was Charlie, “D” was Delta and an “F” was Fox.
For the first couple of months of the semester there had only been a couple of Deltas and no Foxes. That all changed when Ken Gifford was assigned to be in our class. Ken moved in from out of town. He was a bit awkward and it was apparent that he did not make friends easily. I vividly remember the first time we took our quiz when Ken was a student in our class. Mr. Jarvis shouted “Gifford” and Ken responded “Fox”. We were all so embarrassed for him. Sadly, the next 3 or 4 weeks the result was exactly the same….Fox, Fox, Fox, Fox. It was so uncomfortable. I just wanted to crawl underneath my desk and hide.
One day Mr. Jarvis asked each of us to draw a picture of a particular time in history that we were studying. There was a young lady sitting directly behind me who hadn’t said a word all semester except for announcing her grade when asked. Ken was seated directly to my right so the young lady was able to see his drawing. Looking at his picture she said, “Ken I really like the way you drew the sky.”……Ken never looked back…. Never even acknowledged what she had to say. I wasn’t even sure if he heard her.
But on Friday when Mr. Jarvis asked for Ken’s grade he responded “Charlie”. Ken Gifford had just passed his first history quiz in our class! Everyone was so excited. Then the following Friday I heard a word roll off Ken’s lips that I never thought I would ever hear. The word was Alpha. Ken Gifford had just gotten an “A”! I wanted to tap dance on my desk I was so happy for him…………I learned an important lesson that day that I have never forgotten. What a difference a kind word can make in the life of another person.
So perhaps the one word needed to turn it all around for Ken was quite simply —a kind one.
The preceding was an excerpt from a sacrament meeting talk given on January 18th 2015 by Richard B. Gerdts, a Stake High Councilman from the Santa Margarita Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.