Bishop Waddell: A Christmas Eve I’ve Never Forgotten
Contributed By Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric
“True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means good will toward all men.” —President David O. McKay (1873–1970)
Many years ago, as a relatively young married couple, when our girls were 4 and 6 years old and prior to our two boys joining the family, we celebrated a Christmas Eve I’ve never forgotten.
This was going to be the first Christmas Eve our little family would be alone, together, and Carol and I wanted it to be memorable and even planned on using our good china for a Christmas Eve meal with the girls. However, we also wanted the evening to be special by doing something for others, including our girls to the extent possible.
We had heard a talk, I don’t even remember who or where, of a family providing food to the needy at holiday time, which led us to our decision: we would do something for the homeless in downtown San Diego, California.
We began on the family home evening prior to Christmas Eve by shopping with our girls for blankets that we would give away. They were each able to choose a few blankets that they would share with someone in need. On Christmas Eve afternoon, we made sandwiches to go along with the blankets, and, before it got dark, we drove downtown, looking for areas where I knew, from working downtown, we would find some homeless people in need.
As we would see someone lying under a cardboard “blanket” or other type of shelter, we would stop and our girls would hand them a blanket and some food. It was touching to see the reaction of the recipients and the joy in our girls’ eyes as they helped someone in need.
As we drove through Balboa Park on the way home, we had one blanket and bag of food left. Carol noticed a shabbily dressed person pushing a shopping cart and had me stop. A good choice for our last package.
The individual was too far away for our little girls, so Carol ran over and, tapping the person on the shoulder, was surprised when a woman, haggard and worn, turned around. Carol asked if she would like some food and a blanket and has never forgotten her response. “What do I have to do for it?” she asked. Carol told her that it was a gift, and, with tears in her eyes, the homeless woman grabbed Carol’s hands and quietly told her, “God bless you.”
Back in the car, due to the emotion of the experience, it was difficult for Carol to speak. We drove home in grateful silence as we contemplated our own blessings and the opportunity to help someone in need, in even a small way.
President David O. McKay taught: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means good will toward all men.”