I never thought of myself as the stand out, "most likely to succeed" kind of kid. When I was in 6th grade, my bishop was John Beal. Bishop Beal was a banker by trade, and I recently saw him at the St. George Triathlon. We kind of had eye-contact. Actually I spoke with him for a few minutes, but still we kind of had eye-contact. It's hard to explain. Ever since I was the star boy of the primary presentation in our ward during which Bishop Beal and I had an involved memorized conversation that linked the different musical pieces together, I felt a connection to Bishop Beal (But I couldn't think of myself as 'standing out' here because, truth is, I was the only 11 year old boy, and the program was based around an 11 year old boy conversing with his bishop). Despite my red hair, I didn't really stand out in school. Some say that I no longer have red hair. I'm not sure how to take that; I still think I have red hair. I still feel like I have red hair. I don't feel like I don't have red hair. (David Lee Roth doesn't feel tardy.) When I was in 6th grade, I also had a lot of freckles. I was so cute! Imagine the cutest kid you have ever seen, now multiply that by 4. Cute huh?
I've mentioned earlier my attempt to gallop to the presidential fitness level in 6th grade. That kind of effort was typical of my approach to 6th grade: this was a year I pushed the envelope. I worked hard, got my first straight 'A' report card, attended Charity Harvey's (my first true love's) dance un-invited (Charity was the first to hold a dance party), and I was getting good at tennis and skiing, and practicing piano better than before (probably in an attempt to impress Charity). I learned every word on the spelling bee list. I don't know if I told you, but I got out on 'jeep'. 'Jeep!' If you have ever got out on 'jeep' you know that it is a trick word in spelling bees. Do you really think I didn't know how to spell 'jeep'? How did I spell it? Like everyone who misspells it because the school can't afford that kind of volatile personality winning the spelling bee: "Your word is Jeep." "Jeep?...OK...Jeep--G... oh, wait, I mean 'J'" "Sorry, you clearly don't know how to spell 'jeep'". That really was the year I had come prepared to take down any competition in the spelling bee. Bring it on Mildensteins! I also memorized all the Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes during our section on nursery rhymes (beating everyone else by about 25 poems.) Whether others noticed or not, I was pushing myself in 6th grade. I think this is the year I went skiing several times with Jeff Wing (probably my best friend that year, and winner of 2 spelling bees) to Snowbird with his Dad too, and I tackled black diamonds. This was the year the world was starting to come together. But for most eyes, I didn't stand out in ways our culture wants kids to stand out.
You're familiar with the Hope of America award right? I know Chris won it, and his sister, Paige, won it, I also think his wife, Lisa won it. Since Chris was in my ward, I thought I might have an inside track to the award--I had at least heard about it, on a pretty regular basis, so I knew what was at stake, and who knows? maybe past winners helped vote. If so, I thought I could count on Chris. I kind of wondered why Bishop Beal was at 6th grade graduation--Laura (his daughter) was in 5th grade, no?
So the moment of the award came, and Bishop Beal gets up and starts talking about the Hope of America award, and why it is so special, and why only the most special students win it, and how the winner isn't always the person you might think. I started to get a little nervous. Why would they have my bishop come do this? Coincidence? Probably. But if there were a person who might be able to see beneath the surface of the 6th graders' efforts that year, it just might be my bishop... Well, you probably already predicted that Lorita Reynolds won it for the girls. What with her talented singing family and all--singing family that performed for several of our ward parties--of which Bishop Beal was the bishop(!!!) she was hard to overlook. Huh, so is there anyone else that Bishop Beal was associated with among the boys? Come to think of it, I was the only boy that year in his ward. (Charity Harvey was in the ward, but she was a "girl"). Well, it came time for the boys. At first I thought I had no chance, I just wouldn't stand out in that kind of fierce competition; unless; unless the judges were extra perceptive--spiritually perceptive? like say, a bishop could see? and really could identify genuine effort, promise and hope for America! The longer Bishop Beal's desription lasted, the more and more it resembled me. This person worked hard, played tennis, liked sports and school, liked skiing and the outdoors, a great speller, was a red-head freckle-faced boy...Please join me in congratulating 1985's male hope of America...
Of course. He won all those spelling bees.