A Bag of Apples and a Bottle of Salsa


I realized that the Lord had answered my prayers—while I was in the midst of saying them—through this sister’s actions.

It was a crisp, beautiful autumn. But although I had always loved autumn, I did not enjoy it that year. My husband had been a student at BYU for what seemed like forever, and we had run out of money. Because we had virtually no savings, we had paid the cost of books and tuition out of his regular paycheck in August. Now it was October, and our student loan still hadn’t arrived. We were delinquent with bills and low on food. My prayers were filled with requests for the arrival of the loan money, but it would not come for several weeks. Instead, the Lord answered my pleas in an unexpected way.

In the past, both sets of parents had been generous with us, but because of our pride we hesitated to call them. And since this was only a temporary problem, we did not approach our bishop. We decided to use grocery money to pay necessary bills, and meanwhile to use the food we had on hand. I had never before tried to get Andy, our toddler, to eat pancakes three times a day for a week, and I had grossly underestimated the difficulty of the task. By Tuesday (payday was Friday), I knew I would not succeed. I had exactly two dollars left, and I had been asked to bring potato chips for a ward activities committee meeting. (This occurred before the announcement of the local budget allowance program.) Because of my pride, I had accepted my assignment willingly as always, but now I doubted the wisdom of that decision. Finally I took Andy by the hand, and we walked down to the a supermarket and bought the biggest bag of chips two dollars would buy.

Since the activities committee had just recently been reorganized, the chairman (I’ll call her Sister White) had planned a small potluck social with our meeting that night. Because I had just been released from the Primary, I was not well acquainted with Sister White. I had always admired her from afar for her obvious capabilities, but as I got to know her better I felt intimidated by her; she seemed to have many of the qualities I considered myself lacking. Anxious to make a good impression on her and the other members of the committee, I was preoccupied with selfish worries and critical thoughts. I was happy that Andy was getting a square meal, but I worried that someone might notice how eagerly he was enjoying his dinner. Being a bit tired of pancakes myself, I struggled to keep my own enthusiasm for the food under check. I became increasingly uncomfortable as the meeting progressed.

As she led the discussion, Sister White openly expressed doubts about her new calling. She wondered aloud if the Lord was aware of her struggles and stated that she felt her testimony was being tried. Taken aback by what I now realize was an honest expression of need, I began to mentally rejoice at the discovery that even Sister White had weaknesses.

The rejoicing didn’t last long. After the meeting I returned home and put Andy to bed. Now, in the lonely dark of my apartment, I had to face my problem again. How would we make it through the week? I remembered there had been leftover chips and chided myself for not bringing them home. Despite the lack of nutrition, the chips would have been welcomed by my little boy. As I wrestled with these feelings, I fell to my knees and began to pray.

I was startled by a knock on the door. Cautiously, I opened the door and flipped on the light. There stood Sister White holding a large sack. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach, for I knew why she had come. Somewhat ill at ease herself, she said she’d come to return my chips. As she came in, she mumbled something about having bought some apples with the intention of canning applesauce, but she couldn’t get to them. Could I use them? There were also a few bottles of food from her storage she had just thrown in, including a jar of fresh salsa.

“Are you all right?” she wondered. I quickly explained that our student loan had been late in coming but refused to admit that anything was particularly wrong. “We’re fine,” I assured her. “Payday is Friday.” I even recall saying she had “misunderstood” our situation. We talked for a moment about the homemade salsa she had included, and then she left—unsatisfied with my ungracious response, I’m certain. Ashamed that someone was aware of my personal problems, I stared at the apples on the table. I’m not going to eat any of those apples, I determined. I’m not a charity case—it’s so like her to interfere. I couldn’t wait for my husband to return home, assuming he would share in my embarrassment. Yet when he arrived, he failed to see my point of view and promptly ate an apple and a helping of chips. “Ask Sister White for the recipe for this salsa. It’s really good on these chips,” he suggested.

Reluctantly, I served my son an apple with his pancakes the next morning. That afternoon, I made a pie that we all welcomed with joy. By Friday, I had concocted a variety of apple recipes and had begun to regret my pride. I realized that the Lord had answered my prayers—while I was in the midst of saying them—through this sister’s actions. Still not fully humbled, however, I never mentioned this to Sister White and soon afterwards our family moved from the ward.

Recently my husband graduated and we moved. Before we left, we took a sentimental journey through all of our old neighborhoods. I noticed Sister White’s house was vacant with a “For Sale” sign in the window. I often think of that autumn night. Like so many events of my life, I wish I could relive it. How I long to tell Sister White that once a long time ago she came on the Lord’s errand, and I have finally accepted her gift.

[illustration] Illustrated by Allen Garns

Marian Clements Hayes is Primary chorister in the Rexburg First Ward, Rexburg Idaho North Stake.