Loving Grumpy Mr. Fontaine

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Kenya Jayne Washington raised her hand and waved it in the air.

“Yes, Kenya?” Ms. Kimoto asked.

“Ms. Kimoto, I have a great idea! We’ve been trying to think of ways to show people Jesus’ love, right? Last week a friend of Mike’s, Mr. Fontaine, had a heart attack. Remember, we prayed for him this morning?”

“I remember.” Ms. Kimoto nodded.

“This week, after they moved him to the nursing home, I went with Mike to visit him once. That place was so sad! So many lonely people! I was just thinking—couldn’t we all go and sing, maybe make the people there some cards or something?”

Some of the other kids agreed eagerly. Others were not so sure.

“It smells funny at a nursing home,” someone objected.

“That’s true,” Ms. Kimoto agreed. “Just think how you’d feel if you had to live there. Wouldn’t you like a visit from some cheerful primaries? Did you mean today, Kenya?”

“Well, I was hoping so. Mr. Fontaine goes home next week, and I’d like it to be while he’s still there. I know it’s short notice,” Kenya said.

Mike spoke up. “Another thing. After he goes home, Mr. Fontaine will need help, at least until he’s stronger. My dad and Aunt Rose and I are going to help him with his house and yard and stuff. You could all help, if you want.”

“Well, let’s spend the rest of our class time making cards for Mr. Fontaine, and for others in the nursing home. Then you can ask your parents if you may go this afternoon. Let’s say at four o’clock,” Ms. Kimoto suggested.

For the next few minutes, crayons, markers, glue, and glitter flew as the kids made the brightest cards they could. Kenya put a rainbow on hers, and wrote, “He is risen! And He’s coming back for you!

Then Sabbath School was over, and all the parents of primaries were overwhelmed with eager requests and explanations.

At 4:00, three car loads of primaries, plus some parents, and more cards that had been made at home arrived at the nursing home. Ms. Kimoto had called the director, Mr. Adams, and he came out to greet them.

“Thank you so much for coming! This will be a real treat for our residents. Follow me to the activity room,” Mr. Adams instructed.

Kenya and Matt were on either side of Mike, leading him. “It does smell funny,” Kenya whispered.

“You get used to it,” Mike whispered back. “Do you see Mr. Fontaine?”

Kenya looked around the large room. Paper flowers, rabbits, and Easter eggs hung from the ceiling on strings. A battered piano stood in one corner. There were people in chairs and people in wheelchairs. There was even one woman on a rolling bed. When Kenya looked at her, the woman waved excitedly.

“I don’t see Mr. Fontaine, but there’s a woman on a bed waving to us,” Kenya whispered.

“Oh that’s Mrs. Angelo. Take me to her, please.”

Kenya, Mike, and Matt went to the lady’s bedside. Other primaries were meeting people and giving out their cards.

“Hey, Mrs. Angelo!” Mike held out his hand, and Mrs. Angelo gripped it with her skinny one.

“Mikey, good to see you!” The old woman’s voice was thin, like paper rustling. Kenya smiled and tried not to stare at her toothless mouth and what seemed like a million wrinkles. “Who are your friends?”

Mike introduced the others, and Matt gave her a card he’d made. “For me? You’re a good boy!” she exclaimed, patting Matt’s cheek.

Ms. Kimoto clapped her hands. “Come to the front, boys and girls.”

While they lined up, Mr. Adams introduced them to the people. Some clapped eagerly. Others seemed to be sleeping. Kenya still didn’t see Mr. Fontaine.

They were halfway through their first song when he appeared. He was in a wheelchair, being pushed into the room by Aunt Rose. Kenya elbowed Mike. “He’s here!” Mike’s face lit up, so Kenya didn’t tell him Mr. Fontaine’s head was hanging so low he seemed to be staring at his lap.

The primaries sang several songs, and then recited some of their memory verses. Mike even played “Jesus Loves Me” on his recorder. The other kids clapped for him. The people clapped for everything. Some of the sleepers even woke up and joined in. Mr. Fontaine never raised his head. Kenya was starting to feel mad at him.

After the program was over, Mike wanted to introduce the whole class to Mr. Fontaine. Kenya led the way. Mike eagerly named all the class members, parents, and Ms. Kimoto. Mr. Fontaine glanced up and grunted.

Kenya could have stamped her foot. Mike couldn’t see him, of course. She hoped he couldn’t tell how rude Mr. Fontaine was being. She decided to try and rouse him.

“What day do you go home, Mr. Fontaine?” Kenya asked.

Mr. Fontaine shrugged. “Don’t know—Wednesday, maybe.”

“Well, I just wondered, because we wanted to make sure your house is ready for you.”

Mr. Fontaine actually looked up. “What do you mean?”

“We’re going to clean up your yard and cook you some food . . .” Kenya stopped. She wasn’t really sure what they could do.

Aunt Rose said gently, “If you’d like us to, and if you give us a key, we could even clean up inside, and make everything nice for you.”

Mr. Fontaine glared at Aunt Rose. “Why?”

“Because we love you,” Mike said.

“Why?” Mr. Fontaine growled at them.

“Because Jesus loves you!” Mike answered.

Mr. Fontaine’s head dropped downward again. “What makes you think so?” he muttered.

Susannah surprised everyone by stepping forward and kneeling in front of Mr. Fontaine’s wheelchair. She took his clenched fists in her hands. “To Jesus, Mr. Fontaine, you’re just His little boy. No matter how old you are, you’re only a baby to Him. He still loves you, even when you get mad at Him, just like my mom still loves me when I’m bratty.”

“You calling me bratty, girl?” Mr. Fontaine demanded.

“No! I didn’t mean—” Susannah stammered.

Kenya held her breath. To everyone’s astonishment, Mr. Fontaine’s shoulders started to shake. A rusty chuckle emerged. Then he threw back his head and laughed. The rest of the group couldn’t help joining in.

Kenya stepped forward and held out her card. The rainbow glittered. “He loves you, He died for you, He rose again, and He’s coming back for you.” She took a deep breath.

Mr. Fontaine fingered the card. Finally, he said quietly, “That’s a mighty pretty card, missy, mighty pretty. Thank you.”

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