My children enjoy reading the picture book Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, by Emily Pearson. It’s a feel-good book about a little girl who does something ordinary–picks blueberries and places them on her neighbor’s porch. This one kind deed encourages her neighbor to make blueberry muffins for five different people who might have left the blueberries. Then those five people feel so happy, they do kind things for five more people. Then those twenty-five each do something kind for five more people, and the kindness grows exponentially from Mary’s simple act to 6,103,515,625 people feeling loved.
Mary’s kindness comes back to her when her aunt, who was given tickets to a show she really wanted to see, feels so happy she decides to bring Mary a surprise gift. My kids’ favorite page in the book shows a pyramid of numbers that shows how quickly her ordinary act became extraordinary, and then we read, “…after everyone had a share and everybody knew that somebody cared, there was even love left over!”
Last week I saw the making of extraordinary in the life of a neighbor, who passed away unexpectedly. He was Primary teacher to two of my sons as well as over a hundred other children. He taught Primary for so long that young men who are on missions had him as a teacher when they were only 7 and 8 years old.
He was the teacher who, when the music chorister brought in silly hats for the children to place on someone else’s head, always got the first and silliest hat. He helped the children memorize the Articles of Faith and other scriptures by taking the time to make scripture card packets for them. He joked with kids and made sure they knew they were loved. He would tell me (serving as the Primary president), that I’m doing a good job or that he especially liked a Sharing Time presentation.
Every year that I’ve served as president, I’ve said to him, “I know you’ve been in Primary a long time. Are you still happy to be here?” His response: “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Keep me here.” I wish I could have kept him here. His deep bass voice singing the Primary songs will be sorely missed.
At his funeral, there was a beautiful representation of how his years of “ordinary” service in the Primary have become extraordinary. Children, young men, and young women crowded the front of the chapel to sing his favorite song, “Gethsemane.” The chorus reads: “Gethsemane, Jesus loves me. So he gave His gift to me from Gethsemane.” This “ordinary” man spent years lovingly teaching children about the extraordinary gift of the Atonement. Those children will spread the gospel as missionaries and friends throughout the world, and will one day share that gift with their own children.
His love and the love of our Savior will be spread exponentially, so that more and more people will know that somebody cares, and there can even be “love left over.”
What ordinary turned extraordinary acts have you seen in your life?