Each Christmas the youth in our ward deliver boxes of food and toys to families that have had difficult times over the past year. Because of job layoffs in the area, one Christmas was especially hard for some families in our ward. The ward members were invited to donate used items still in good condition for the Christmas boxes. Since I had recently donated items my family no longer used to a local charity, I couldn’t think of anything to give.
Early one morning while I was taking my son to hockey practice, I spotted an extra pair of ice skates in his bag. They were last year’s skates, which he had outgrown. Then the thought struck me: I could donate the skates for the Christmas boxes. I asked my son and he agreed. So I replaced the laces and gave them to the youth.
When the time came to deliver the boxes, I assisted the youth. Our group of 10 was asked to visit a family with four children ranging in age from four to nine. We sang to them at the door and were invited into their small living room. Their tree was simple and beautiful, decorated with homemade ornaments. The children, though shy at first, warmed to our inquiries about the ornaments and excitedly pointed to ones they had made. The six-year-old boy was especially pleased with his decoration of baby Jesus lying in a manger.
The children were curious about what we had brought in the boxes. Resting in one of the boxes on top of a pile of toys was the pair of boy’s skates my family had donated. I asked the six-year-old boy if he liked to skate. He said he had never tried it. I asked if he would like to try skating, but he declined, saying that he would never be able to. I encouraged him, and he agreed that he would try it if he had some skates. When I asked him to try on the skates in the box, he again declined. I could not understand his reluctance. Then he explained that he did not want to try them on because they were not his. My eyes stung with tears as I realized he did not know we were there to bring gifts for his family.
The skates were his to keep, I told him. His eyes wide with delight, he eagerly tried them on. They fit perfectly! He chattered excitedly about how he was going to learn to ice-skate. Then he suddenly became quiet. He went to the tree and took down his beautiful baby Jesus ornament. He held it out to me and told me he wanted me to have it. My heart almost burst. I took the special ornament and hugged the little boy tightly, feeling the joy that comes from the kind of charitable service implicit in the Savior’s words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).