As we planned our ward’s youth calendar for the year 1978–79, we wanted to emphasize service. So in that spirit it was decided that this year our Young Men—Young Women Christmas party would be replaced by a service project—that of providing Christmas for some needy family. A youth committee was organized and an LDS family outside of our ward selected.
A needier family could not have been chosen. The mother, who was divorced, was a recent convert to the Church and lived with her three children and her own aged mother in a small, one-bedroom house that was scarcely bigger than most people’s living room. There was no furniture to speak of, and the family’s sole source of entertainment and relaxation came from a small black-and-white television set. The woman worked nights to provide a meager sustenance for her family, with no surplus to purchase either a Christmas tree or presents for her children and their grandmother.
Our youth committee set to work planning this very special Christmas activity. They wanted to go all out—a Christmas tree, Christmas dinner, and presents for each member of the family. Each Young Men and Young Women class was assigned a specific area: the Explorers would purchase the Christmas tree and buy presents for the young boy; the Laurels would provide the food, including a turkey for Christmas dinner; the Venturers would buy presents for the mother; and on it went until each class had an assignment. A super Christmas for a deserving family was assured.
To make this an even more meaningful experience for our young people, we asked them to earn the money they would be contributing. Mother and dad’s money would not be acceptable on this project. It was gratifying to see how positively the majority of the youth responded to the challenge.
The gifts, beautifully wrapped, the tree, and the food were all taken by the youth committee to this special family several days before Christmas. The young people were touched by the sincere, emotional appreciation expressed by this mother on behalf of her family. And we adult leaders felt a real lesson had been learned. But this experience was to have a greater impact on the youth than we knew.
Christmas morning, as I was ushering my family into the car to go over to my brother’s for our traditional Christmas dinner, our Young Men president pulled up in front of the house.
“Did you hear what happened to the family we provided the Christmas for?” he asked.
Before I could reply, he went on: “While the mother was working Christmas Eve, someone broke into the house and stole all their Christmas presents—even took their old TV set.”
It seemed impossible! After all that work, how could this happen? My heart ached for that family as I thought how disappointing this must have been for them. Then I noticed that his car was filled with presents. Smiling, he continued:
“That’s the second batch of presents going over to the family this morning. When we found out about the robbery, we called a few kids in the ward, and before we knew it, they had contacted others—and all these kids and their families donated their own Christmas presents to our ‘Christmas family.’”
Sitting on top of the pile of presents was a small TV set. He saw me looking at it, and as he began to get into his car, he said, “One of our fourteen-year-old men donated his own TV set.”
He drove off, and I got into our car with my family.
“What was that all about, dad?” one of my children asked.
After a pause, and feeling very grateful for my association with these young people, I replied, “I’ve just learned a lesson in charity. Let me tell you a story about the true spirit of Christmas.”