I have been blessed with many wonderful teachers at every phase of my life, but Julia Golding was there for me at an important turning point. She was called to be my Primary teacher when I was 11.
She told the bishop she did not consider herself to be a very good teacher — especially for a class of all boys. Nevertheless, she accepted the call and served diligently. She often began her lessons by apologizing that we got “stuck” with her. Then she proceeded to touch the lives of every boy with her love and testimony.
I remember her helping us memorize the Articles of Faith and various scriptures. I recall her enthusiastic retelling of stories from the scriptures and Church history. I can’t hear the story of the conversion of Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah without thinking of how I felt when she told it. I can’t hear “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” (Hymns, 29) without remembering the touching way she described John Taylor being asked to sing it when while in Carthage Jail. I remember her telling us how Heber J. Grant persevered to improve his handwriting and challenged us to always strive to improve.
Most of all, I remember how she reached out to me personally. I was far from being inactive, but she could see that I was not part of the circle of friendship the other boys enjoyed. I spent several childhood years in Ethiopia, Africa, where my father was working to improve the quality of education. Sports were not part of my life in Addis Ababa. When our family returned to the United States I became painfully aware that I did not know how to play basketball, baseball and football the way the other boys did. I felt excluded at school and church.
Sister Golding reached out to include me. I remember her showing interest in my interests. At the time I was taking piano lessons and also would spend hours drawing house plans. She asked me to play the songs I was learning for her and invited me to give her ideas as she remodeled her home. She “hired” me and another boy in the class, Lindsay, to help her sell apples at a roadside stand. Not only did that make me feel important, but it also gave me a lot of time to talk and bond with Lindsay who became a good (and much needed) friend. I remember her making special arrangements for me to help with the Cub Scouts in the ward during their weekly meetings. Helping those younger children awakened in me a love of teaching that has lasted throughout my life.
Long after I left her class and she was released from her calling, Sister Golding continued to follow my progress. Not only would she greet me at church, but she would call and praise me when I gave a talk or performed a musical number. When she heard of an accomplishment at school she was quick to write me a little note. Even after our ward got divided and we did not attend meetings together, she came when I spoke in sacrament meeting as I left on my mission and when I returned. Even now I continue to receive validating words and hugs whenever I see this remarkable woman who is now 100.
She reached out with love and acceptance when I was 11, and I still feel her support today. She made a difference at a lonely and discouraging time in my life, and I will forever count myself blessed that I got “stuck” with her.
• A BYU professor of education, Brad Wilcox is a popular speaker and author of several books.
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