By Linda Porter Carlyle
Joseph Anderson Donetti listened to his mom’s side of the telephone conversation.
“Oh, dear!” she said. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
There was a long pause. “Well, I’ve never done it before, but I’ll be glad to try. I’m sure Joseph will help me,” Mom finished. She hung up the phone.
“What’s the matter?” Joseph asked, his mouth full of cereal.
“That was Mrs. Ellery, the Beginner leader,” Mom said, sitting down to finish her breakfast. “She has the flu. Her assistant has the flu. Everybody she’s called for help so far also has the flu. She needs someone to teach for her today. I guess it will be you and me!” Mom popped her last bite into her mouth.
“I don’t know how to teach little kids!” Joseph exclaimed.
“I’ve never done it before either,” Mom reminded him.
Joseph and Mom left for church earlier than usual. Mom said one thing she did know—the leader was supposed to get to the class before the children did.
They went into the Beginner room. Joseph found the light switch and turned the lights on. He looked around. He saw tiny, colorful chairs—red ones, blue ones, yellow ones. And there were a few walkers—the kind babies usually sat in to scoot themselves around. But these walkers had no wheels.
Mom hurried to the front of the room to the table behind the piano. That’s where Mrs. Ellery had said all the teaching stuff was kept.
Pretty soon mothers and fathers began bringing their children to Sabbath School. The parents helped their children sit in the tiny chairs and then sat down behind them in regular-sized folding chairs. Joseph soon understood why the parents didn’t leave. None of the children stayed in their chairs. They stood right up again and waddled here and there or wanted to sit on their parent’s laps.
Mrs. Estevez peeked through the door and spotted Joseph. “Would you please watch Baby Paulo for me for a little while?” she asked.
“Sure!” Joseph said. He took Baby Paulo’s chubby hand and led him to one of the little chairs. Joseph sat down behind him. Baby Paulo turned around and smiled at Joseph. “Daah-daah-daah-daah-daaaaah!” he gurgled happily. Spit ran down his chin and made a wet spot on the front of his shirt.
The mom sitting beside Joseph pointed helpfully. “There are tissues on top of the piano,” she said.
Joseph jumped up, grabbed a tissue, and wiped Paulo’s chin and cheeks.
“Daah-daah-daah-daah-daah-daah!” Paulo gurgled some more.
Mom began the Sabbath School program. She started to sing a welcoming song. Some of the parents sang along. Some held their children’s hands and helped them to clap. That looked like a good idea. Joseph leaned over and tried to help Baby Paulo clap too.
“Eee-oooo! Eee-ooooo!” Paulo screeched.
Joseph let go.
“Daah-daah-daah-daah-daah!” Paulo bounced up and down, drool leaking out of his mouth.
Joseph jumped up and grabbed more tissues. He wiped Baby Paulo’s face again. What was he supposed to do with these disgusting wet tissues? Where was the wastebasket?
Paulo stood up and wobbled to the front of the room.
Joseph dropped the tissues on the floor and hurried to get him. “Come back and sit down,” he said softly, taking Baby Paulo’s hand.
“Eeeee-ooooooo! Eeeee-oooooo!” Paulo shouted, plopping down on the carpet.
Joseph looked helplessly at Mom.
“Pick him up. Maybe he’ll sit on your lap,” Mom suggested.
Joseph picked Baby Paulo up. He was heavy! And squirmy! Joseph sat down with the wiggling baby on his lap. Oh, no! What was that smell? Joseph wrinkled his nose.
Just then Mrs. Estevez slid into the seat next to Joseph. “Thank you so much for watching Paulo,” she whispered.
“Mama! Mama! Mama!” Paulo shouted, holding out his arms.
Mrs. Estevez scooped him up. She sniffed. “I think I’ll go check his diaper,” she said and stood up.
Joseph breathed a sigh of relief. He looked at Mom. She had an armful of stuffed animals that she was handing out to the children. She was telling them about all the animals Jesus made. An orange and purple parrot and a ragged-looking gorilla slipped out of her arms.
Joseph stood up. He could help hold animals. They would certainly be easier to hold than Paulo!
Finally Sabbath School was over. The last toddler toddled through the door, holding his daddy’s hand. Mom looked at Joseph. “I’m exhausted!” she exclaimed. She sank down onto one of the folding chairs.
Joseph sat down on one of the tiny chairs. “Me too!” he agreed. “Teaching little kids is hard work!”
They sat for a minute and listened to the quiet, but it didn’t last long. “Here you are!” Mac said, dashing into the room. “I wondered where you were because you weren’t in our class, and then G.M. [Joseph’s grandmother] told me you were teaching Beginner! Was it fun? Did you just love it? Maybe next time I can help!”
“It was hard work!” Joseph informed her.
“Well,” Mac said, “we were learning the memory verse in class about how if you do something for the very least person, it is the same as doing it for Jesus. And you got to do the doing! You got to do something for the very littlest people. You got to do something for Jesus instead of just talking about it!”
Joseph stood up and stretched. He looked at Mom and grinned. “Yep!” he said. “I did.”
Have you ever helped take care of little kids? Did you have fun? Did it make you tired too? That’s how mothers and fathers feel a lot of the time. What have you done to take care of a “very least” person? What could you do?—Mrs. Sox