Not Too Much to Ask
“Mommy.” I raised my head, listening intently. Of course, my sleepy mind realized, one of my daughters needed something. “Mommy. It’s time.”
Time for what?
“Mommy,” the voice called. “Mommy.”
Now awake, but barely so, I threw back the covers and swung my feet over the edge of the bed, peering into the darkness to identify the daughter who needed me.
It must be Christina; Trinell or Melissa would have left the bedroom door open. What I saw, however, was not one of my girls, but a male Indian child. He was clothed in white robes, his arms outstretched.
“Mommy, it’s time. It’s time for me to come.”
I rubbed my eyes, knowing I could not have seen what I had just seen. My ears must be involved in the trick, too, I reasoned as I snuggled back into my warm bed.
But sleep was not to come. As determined as I was to convince myself the incident had been a dream, someone else was just as determined I realize it was real.
A short time later, I was looking at the same Indian child, clothed as before.
“Mommy, it’s time for me to come. Soon I will be coming into the world, and I’m to be your son.”
I spent the rest of the night debating whether or not to tell Ray, my husband. Eventually I did. His reaction was not surprising. He took both my hands in his and told me he’d have to also receive personal inspiration on the matter.
I understood and waited patiently for what I knew would happen. A few months later I was not surprised when my husband related his experience with our son-to-be. While working, he’d been listening to some music. Suddenly, the music ceased. Peaceful, heavenly strains filled the air and a voice impressed upon Ray’s mind and soul that an Indian son was to come into our family. Now was the time for him to start preparations to receive the child.
Our first step was to submit an adoption application to a social services agency. However, because we already had three children, our application was denied.
Our hopes sank, but our faith remained strong. We knew that we would not have to wait that long.
Two weeks after we had submitted our application, we were notified that our application was being reviewed. A short time later, we were notified that our application had been accepted. But again, we were warned of the three- to five-year wait.
At this time, I needed reassurance. I found it at the temple. While silently praying in the chapel there, I was reassured that our son would soon be with us and he was to be called Mathew.
On 27 July 1984, a male child was born in Calgary, Alberta. Carefully, a nurse washed and bundled him in blankets. Then, placing him in a hospital bassinet, she wheeled him to a private nursery. He was being placed for adoption.
A few doors down the hall, a young mother was sealing an envelope. She had the grace and bearing acquired from her Blackfoot heritage. She knew in her heart that what she was doing was right. She handed the envelope to a social worker.
Inside the envelope was her story. She told briefly of her own history and her desire to provide her child with the best possible life. She had prayed that her child would be blessed with a good home. And if it wasn’t too much to ask, she had added, she’d like the family to have girls.
It wasn’t too much to ask. In the late summer of 1984, we received a call asking us to come to Calgary to pick up our son. As they placed him in my arms and his tiny hand curled around Ray’s finger, we knew at last that Mathew was home.
The Heart and Mustard Seed
It had been a long time since I’d thought about her. I couldn’t even recall exactly which class she had taught in our ward. But today, over twenty years later, I was grateful she had been my teacher.
It was one of those days. I felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities at home and at church. Discouraged, I walked into my bedroom and noticed a jewelry box I’d received as a child.
Inside were rings, necklaces, pins, and other mementos from my childhood. “No time for sentimental journeys today,” I scolded myself. But the temptation was too great; I opened the box, carefully rummaging through its contents.
A heart-shaped pendant caught my eye. Instantly, I remembered where it had come from. Picking it up, I studied the tiny mustard seed encased inside the gold-rimmed crystal heart. Beneath the heart was a matching gold plaque with an inscription that read, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (See Matt. 17:20.)
I remembered vividly the night she had given us the necklaces. It was the end of the year and time to move on to a new class and teacher. The necklaces, she told us, were just small tokens of remembrance. But to me, the tiny chain and heart represented much more—they were quiet reminders that I could be all I wanted if I believed in myself and had faith in the Lord.
As I thought about the lessons she had taught, I realized that I couldn’t recall any posters done neatly in calligraphy. I searched my memory, but I didn’t remember any audiovisual presentations either. Her lessons were not delivered with impressive eloquence or smooth teaching methods.
What I do remember is the warm feeling that enveloped me when I sat in her classroom. Tears fell down my cheeks now as I remembered her tears, falling unheeded as she shared stories from the lesson manual or bore her testimony. I recalled the stirring of the Spirit within my own heart as it bore witness to the truthfulness of the things she so genuinely taught.
I pictured six young women eagerly attending a cookout in her backyard. I heard her laughter and saw her smile as she accompanied the same giggling group to the movies. It was obvious that she enjoyed teaching us and being with us. Her expressions of unconditional love and concern made each one of us feel special.
Picking up the necklace, I felt again the warmth of her spirit. I wiped my tears as I looked at the inscription once more. “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
The day was beginning to look better already.
The Man in the Yellow Slicker
One chilly day in September, my husband, John, arrived home to tell me about a man in a torn yellow rain jacket he had seen walking along the highway and whom he had stopped to help. The man’s name was Claude. He had been pushing a broken grocery cart loaded with empty pop cans. As they talked, my husband noticed Claude’s cold, red hands clenching the handle of the cart, and he gave Claude a new pair of gloves he happened to have in the truck.
Claude had refused the gloves. He said he had a pair back in Calgary in his room and assured my husband that he would be all right. Seeing his swollen feet, which slipped out of his old laceless shoes with every step he took, John found it hard to believe that he would be all right.
Claude told John that he had been on his own ever since he had been a young boy because of problems with his parents. He had quit school after grade nine because of a learning disability. Collecting pop cans during the summer netted him about two hundred dollars for his efforts. Claude said he liked being outdoors and seeing the countryside. When my husband asked him where he had slept the previous night, Claude said, “Between two granaries in a farmer’s field.” He added, “It was a little cool.”
My heart ached for this poor man as I thought about the thick layer of ice on our water trough that morning. My husband and I wanted to help him.
The next day was Sunday. I returned home from church with the words of a song echoing in my mind—“Because I have been given much, I too must give.” (Hymns, 1985, no. 219.) I couldn’t rest. It had been freezing cold again the night before, and I wondered where Claude had slept. That was it—I packed a box for him with warm socks, food, shoelaces, a sleeping bag, and a little money. Then I attached a note with our name and phone number that simply said, “We would like to help you.”
Then we set off to find Claude. We found him sitting by the side of the road. “I stopped for an hour to dry off in the sun,” Claude said as the pale sun appeared between the clouds. We offered him a ride into town, but he refused and assured us that he could walk there, sell his cans, and then walk back to Calgary. That was one hundred and twenty miles! I felt uneasy as we gave him the box and then left him alone on the highway with his cart, his pop cans, and his red, swollen feet.
That night it rained almost two inches. I knew the torn yellow rain jacket wouldn’t give him much protection from the rain. Monday was bitterly cold, with icy winds. We went to look for Claude again.
We found him in a restaurant, where he had taken shelter. He sat near the window, watching his grocery cart with its precious cargo of pop cans, and drank a cup of hot chocolate to warm himself. After much persuasion, we finally convinced Claude to come home with us. So we loaded the cart with the missing front wheel and the plastic bags filled with pop cans into our truck and headed home.
Once in our home, Claude’s blue eyes shone out in contrast with his weather-beaten, bearded face. When we gave him some new boots, we noticed a toe was missing from his left foot. “I got it frozen off one night,” he said, “but I’m glad it wasn’t my right foot.”
Hot soup, toast, and hot chocolate seemed to please him. As he reached for the jam, we noticed that his large hands had been cracked by the cold. He told us that he had a room in Calgary, where the landlady let handicapped people sleep. He said his parents were in a senior citizens’ home in Red Deer. He tried to visit them once a year even though he had not lived with them for many years.
That night we drove him to Calgary, but we stopped first in Red Deer to let him visit with his parents. On the remaining drive to Calgary, I struggled with my thoughts. Here we live in a land of peace and plenty, yet on our very doorsteps there are people in need who are suffering. I was grateful that Claude had crossed my path. The words of the song echoed in my heart again, but this time with much more meaning—“Because I have been given much, I too must give.”