Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stranded in a Small Town

Frank W. Olsen and Kathleen Olsen, “Stranded in a Small Town,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 51–52

Christmas Eve in Wyoming was about as cold and wintry as late December can be. But this didn’t dampen our excitement as we prepared to make the four-hour drive to Spanish Fork, Utah, to celebrate Christmas with other family members.

It was already dusk when we started out with our four children. The wind was blowing across the empty, rolling hills and the mercury was steadily dropping when, some distance east of Evanston, Wyoming, I saw blue smoke billowing out from behind our car. We stopped immediately. The motor had thrown a rod, and the car could take us no farther. The dark and cold settled down around us.

Traffic was sparse. The windchill dropped the temperature to nearly 70 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and the car was rapidly losing heat. The children were starting to shake from the cold. Then Kai, our five-year-old son, suggested we pray to Heavenly Father and ask him to send us some help. Taking my young son’s advice, we offered a prayer.

After a few minutes a car approached, and my wife jumped out of our car and stood in the middle of the road, frantically waving down the oncoming vehicle. The car stopped, and a man inquired what we wanted. He agreed to transport us into Evanston. All the way into town he kept muttering, “I can’t imagine what made me stop—I never stop for anybody along the road.”

He let us out at one of the few restaurants still open on Christmas Eve. Calling my father in Spanish Fork, I explained our plight and asked if anyone would be willing to drive to Wyoming and pick us up. He promised to see what he could work out. I gave him the name of the restaurant where we waited.

As we settled into a booth for the long wait, Kai wandered over to a neighboring booth and engaged the young couple in animated conversation. Soon our plight became known, and they approached us with an invitation to join them at their motel room, where we could relax comfortably during the long wait ahead.

Who could refuse such goodness? Leaving word of our location with the manager of the restaurant, we headed for the comfort of the motel. The couple, though strangers, opened their hearts to us and showered our children with Christmas treats.

We had just settled the children to watch a Christmas television program when a knock came at the door. When we opened the door, a weather-beaten ranch hand stood there in the winter night holding a set of keys.

“Here’s the outfit for you,” he said, nodding to a truck parked behind him.

“What do you mean?” I asked in utter amazement.

“I dunno what it’s all about. My boss lady just told me to bring her four-wheel-drive truck in for you to take to Spanish Fork. Just drop it off on your way back through when you get your own rig fixed.”

Tipping his hat, he disappeared into the night.

Puzzled, my wife and I stared at the keys and at the truck parked outside. Shaking my head, we bid our kind hosts good night and drove out of town to pick up our suitcases and continue our trip.

When we arrived at Spanish Fork, my father explained that after the phone call he had turned to the family and announced that he was driving to Wyoming to pick us up.

“No need for that,” said my Uncle Charlie. “I’ve got a friend just outside Evanston who will help. I’ll just call her.”

He dialed an elderly widow who owned a large sheep ranch and explained the situation to her. She agreed to help, wished him a Merry Christmas, and sent a ranch hand into town with the truck.

For us, it was a night filled with unexpected, unforgettable acts of service from many people, for we were strangers, and they took us in (see Matt. 25:35). Their many thoughtful acts on that cold winter night many years ago were gifts of Christmas kindness that have warmed our hearts and brightened our memories ever since.

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