Children as benefactors

Autumn afternoons, in large part, come in two types: (1) Those wonderfully warm Indian summer days that simply demand that you do something outside. One could bask in that soft sunshine for, seemingly, a lifetime. (2) Those blustery overcast days that, unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool autumn lover, tend to chase you inside.

A dyed-in-the-wool autumn lover, Hector was playing catch-up this particular cold-and-gray Saturday afternoon. Because he loves the entire season, he really didn't mind that he had spent his earlier autumn days — those dusted with warm late-afternoon sun — on less pressing matters. So today, before the snow fell, he was doing autumn chores.

The fallen leaves, not surprisingly, were first on his list.

He hadn't raked for more than a minute or two before the neighbor children asked that an errant ball be returned to their yard. With that entree, 4-year-old Avenly — her new eyeglasses magnifying her naturally pretty eyes — was almost immediately in Hector's yard, anxious to help.

Maybe it was his love for autumn that illuminated Hector's usually dim view of such help (with helpers like this, who needs slackers), but today he welcomed her openly.

They raked the leaves into piles, put the piles into the wheelbarrow and emptied the wheelbarrow into the garden, where the leaves would make great mulch.

Overall, Hector thought to himself, he was a being a pretty good guy, showing genuine neighborly kindness to the kid next door. He was paying attention, answering questions, helping Avenly with the over-sized rake and, remembering the kindness of his own father, even letting her ride atop the spongy leaves in the wheelbarrow.

Certainly, he was Avenly's benefactor.

With the leaves all raked, the duo turned their attention to trimming the rose bushes. When Avenly, untroubled that the flowers were wilted and drab, wanted to take some to her mother, Hector thought the child was, well, cute.

When Avenly wanted to take some heart-shaped stickers to cheer Hector's ill wife, he thought that also was cute.

Had he been paying attention, however, maybe Hector would have started, at least, to see that those gestures were more than cute. Maybe he could have taken a discerning peek into a child's authentic heart — and learned something.

But when Avenly asked, "What's inside a flower?" Hector was obliged to pay attention.

Avenly, he began to realize, was his benefactor. And, he conceded, maybe he wasn't quite as greathearted as he had confidently thought. Maybe it was a gift and a blessing to him to actually learn while working with such an insightful, albeit young, daughter of God.

At the very least, Hector could now well-relate to the remarks Primary General President Coleen K. Menlove made just a few weeks earlier in general conference.

"It is interesting to note that as we listen to our children, they can also teach us.

"A father shared an experience he had with his 8-year-old daughter. He said: While I was contemplating remarks for my sacrament meeting talk on 'Becoming like Little Children,' I asked my daughter why we needed to become like little children. She responded, 'Because we are all little children compared to Jesus, and because little children have a good imagination.'

"Surprised by the last part of her answer, he asked why we need a good imagination. She replied, 'So we can imagine Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, and when we take the sacrament we can think about Him.' " (October 2002 general conference, Saturday morning session.)

Though Hector had never imagined what might be inside a flower, he had certainly tried to contemplate the depth and breadth of the Atonement. Now, maybe Avenly's imagination and insight will give Hector just a little boost in his efforts.

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