Christmas Memory: Teen Learns Truth

Contributed By By Anneka Winder, Church News contributor

  • 24 December 2012

After her family’s home burned, Anneka Winder, left, with her mother, Julie, has a new understanding of what Christmas should be all about.

Article Highlights

  • A 15-year-old young woman returns home to find her house on fire and her sister missing.
  • Reuniting with her family and the kindness of strangers help her realize that love and relationships—not things—are what life is all about.
  • The best way to honor the Savior’s gift to us at Christmas is to love others as He loved us.

“Fifty years from now, will you care whether or not you got that awesome new video game? No. What will matter is if you spend Christmas with your family, whether you told your siblings how much you love them.”—Anneka Winder

From time to time, the Church News receives letters or emails from our readers that we feel ought to be published in their own words. Following is one such correspondence from a 15-year-old young woman who learned at a young age some very important truths.


With Christmas approaching, our thoughts are turned toward goodwill to men and loving one another … along with visions of iPhones dancing in our heads, of course. Honestly, how many of us actually spend a moment on Christmas morning thinking of the baby Jesus? Or are we all too busy shaking that particularly promising-looking present in the corner to see if the sound matches that of the new video game we’ve been wanting and hoping that the only bout of generosity came between Santa and your stocking? I know I’ve been guilty on both counts, but recently I’ve begun to wonder if there’s more to Christmas than just the gifts and giving of gifts that I’ve been told by television its meaning is about.

This thought started last February, when my house burned down. It was unsalvageable. And the contents? Worthless. My clothes were ruined with soot. I didn’t mourn for them, though. I was just thankful my family survived.

I came home from a ski trip exhausted. I opened the door to kick off my boots and rest. It was dark. At first I was confused, but as the darkness billowed out, it was apparent the house was on fire. I screamed, but not for the house itself. My sister was unaccounted for, and we were sure she was in there somewhere, and whether she was alive remained to be seen.

I’ve never lost a family member, but the feeling I got when I learned my sister may have been trapped in a burning building and I could only watch—that was horrible. You can’t replace a little sister. We found out she’d actually walked over to a friend’s house without telling, but none of us were angered, just relieved.

Though it was a scarring experience, I learned a lot about love and its importance. As neighbors and friends watched my house burn, their kindness was overwhelming. A man I didn’t know asked if I needed shoes. Another woman gave me a blanket, saying I was in shock and needed warmth. Friends were simultaneously distracting me with jokes and offering condolences.

It made me realize it isn’t the stuff you have that’s important, in the end. It’s the people you meet, the relationships you form, the inseparable bond between family members—that’s what life’s all about when you get down to it. This is what we should focus on during the coming Christmas. Fifty years from now, will you care whether or not you got that awesome new video game? No. What will matter is if you spend Christmas with your family, whether you told your siblings how much you love them.

In Jesus’s life, His whole purpose was giving. He gave His all for other people and, in the end, He suffered in Gethsemane and died on the cross for each and every one of us. I hope that we can remember that this is the true meaning of Christmas, which all began with the birth of a baby in a manger. The best way we can honor His sacrifice on Christmas is to love one another, as He loved us.

• Anneka Winder is the 15-year-old daughter of Brent and Julie Winder and sister to Gretchen, 11; Nadia, 9; and Dresden, 6. The family lived in St. George, Utah, when their home burned last February. They now reside in the Manila 12th Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Manila Stake.