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Mind if I reminisce?

When I served my mission in southern Germany, one Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, which meant an evening sacrament meeting, which as you can imagine provided a special setting for the talks about the Savior’s birth and mission.  After the services, my companion and I walked with a family to their home through the deserted streets of Esslingen right after a snowfall.  Past a medieval castle and storybook buildings, with not a footprint in the snow before us, was an experience out of the 1500s.  A full moon played peek-a-boo behind drifting clouds as we walked to the family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner.  A picture-postcard scene if ever there was one.

The year before in Upper Bavaria was my loneliest as it was my first Christmas away from home.  My companion, John Hammond, and I had been sent to open the city of Weiden.  Rather, I should say, Elder Hammond had that responsibility because I was new – no MTC in those days and I could barely conjugate a verb – and was little more than a tag-along.  With no members in town to be with, it was, shall we say, an introspective Christmas.

Before and since, there have been thin Christmases and others so sumptuous I would drool on my laptop if I described them.  But the Christmas that had the biggest impact on me happened when I was 13 and the oldest of six children. 

My father had been struck down with a crippling disease and, out of a job, was to spend 18 months in the hospital learning to walk again.  Needless to say, we pinched pennies.  A few days before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  I opened it and nobody was there.  But on the porch was a bushel basket (remember those?) of red apples … and on each stem was tied a crisp dollar bill.  I’ve been partial to red and green ever since.

Not a soul in sight, no note attached.  It might not sound like much, but this was at a time when gas was 21 cents a gallon, bread 15 cents a loaf, and you could mail a letter for only 3 pennies.  Figure out how many apples can fit into a bushel basket and the purchasing power of those painstakingly attached dollars might well be over $1000 today.

We wondered for days who we should thank and were sure in the following weeks the secret would leak out.  Almost fifty years later, just before my Mom passed away, I asked her, “Did you ever find out … ”  Didn’t have to finish the sentence; Mom knew what I was referring to.  “I never did,” she replied.

Somewhere in the little American Graffiti town of Springville, Utah was a person, family or group who had to have felt a warm joy that Christmas knowing they did something significant to help a poor family, and without any thought of receiving praise.  If you’re still out there, or if your children are aware of your kind act … thank you.

I have remembered that anonymous gift every Christmas since.  And what a lesson: it’s not the resume we craft in this life as much as it is what we quietly do for others that will bring us happiness, and them as well.

Best wishes to you and yours, and a Merry Christmas!


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Gary Lawrence welcomes comments:  [email protected]