Charity—A Christmas Story
For me, charity defines Christmas, and I like Christmas. A lot! All of my Christmases have been memorable (my choice), and some have been exceptional. Like the Christmas of 1978 in Tustin, California.
I was serving as a counselor in the bishopric at the time—my fifth go-around for that call. I’d heard the two most popular clichés that went with that kind of recycling a thousand times:
“You’ll do it until you get it right.”
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”
There wasn’t much I hadn’t experienced in that position, but that was about to change. I was assigned to work with the Young Women and Young Men. All that year we emphasized service, and in that spirit the young people decided to forego their Christmas party and replace it with a meaningful act of service. They would provide the whole Christmas for a needy family. An ad hoc youth committee was organized, and a family outside of our ward was prayerfully selected.
The divorced mother in the single-parent home lived with her three children and her own aged mother in a small, one-bedroom house that was scarcely bigger than most peoples’ living rooms. No furniture to speak of, and the family’s sole source of entertainment came from a small black-and-white television set—remember, this is 1978. The woman worked nights to provide meager sustenance for her family, and she didn’t have the means to purchase either a Christmas tree or presents for her children and their grandmother.
Our youth wanted to go all out for this family. The Priests purchased the Christmas tree and presents for the young boy; the Laurels provided the food, including a turkey for Christmas dinner; the Teachers bought presents for the mother; and, on it went until an unforgettable Christmas was assured. To make this an even more meaningful experience for our young people, we encouraged them to earn the money they would be contributing. Mom and Dad were off-limits as a resource.