Befriending her was more than a good deed—it was a lesson in charity.

The line of students waiting to register for junior high school seemed to stretch indefinitely into the blistering August sun. Talk of suntans, brand names, and hair styles began to tax my patience as I inched forward beside my daughter, Tara. I held my peace pretty well until Tara began pointing out the questionable merits of every “popular” girl.

“Each girl here has her own special inner beauty, regardless of outward appearances,” I insisted. “Everyone is beautiful—Heavenly Father doesn’t make mistakes.”

Then I noticed Seraph. * For a moment I mistook the girl for just another mother weary of waiting. Standing a head taller than anyone else around her, she tugged uncomfortably at her oversized clothing and met my curious glance with a blank stare through thick glasses. Mousy hair and a colorless complexion completed the picture. Tara’s knowing look confirmed my fears, and I wondered if God had somehow overlooked Seraph.

That afternoon, and for many months thereafter, conversation at home occasionally lingered on Seraph. “She’s in my gym class,” Tara announced, “and she hasn’t spoken a word to anyone. When she wasn’t picked for a team and Coach Mason had to assign her to one, it looked like she’d burst into tears.”

As the days passed, Tara would come home with sad reports about Seraph’s trials at school. We felt sorry for her but felt powerless to help. One day, however, I thought of the Savior’s compassion for the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40) and felt impressed to plead for Seraph in my prayers. Slowly a miracle unfolded.

It was the Christmas season, and gift fever pervaded the school like the mistletoe adorning the gym. The girls boasted of the gifts they were exchanging, but no one included Seraph. In gym class, she spent more and more time in the coach’s cubbyhole office, dutifully tending to the record books.

“Mom,” Tara said excitedly one day after school, “Seraph looked so lonely today that I blurted out I was bringing her a present tomorrow.” That evening, Tara decided on a simple gift—a red stocking stuffed with Christmas candy.

At school the next day, Tara greeted Seraph warmly and gave her the gift. “Merry Christmas, Seraph!” Tara’s sincerity was disarming, and Seraph’s puzzlement soon melted into an expression of gratitude and wonderment.

Tara was surprised to find a beautifully wrapped gift in her locker the following day. The earrings had been carefully chosen, but the card’s message was the most memorable gift in our family that Christmas: “I was so happy to get a present from someone. You are the only popular girl who ever speaks to me. It’s okay if you don’t talk to me in front of your friends. I know how nice you really are inside. Thank you, Seraph.”

Like a glimpse into eternity, Tara’s growing understanding of Christlike love was arresting. Scriptural passages like “Charity suffereth long, and is kind” and “Charity is the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:45, 47) took on profound meaning for her. Moved by this experience, Tara and I united our prayers to know how we could help Seraph. Could our caring make a difference in one lonely life?

With Valentine’s Day just over two weeks away, Seraph was still shy and withdrawn, although she mumbled “hi” whenever Tara greeted her. Her aloofness seemed like a cry for help. I recalled the time five years ago when an anonymous benefactor made our Christmas ring with gladness after a twelve-day spree of leaving gifts on our doorstep. Could we similarly bless Seraph’s life with the fourteen days of valentines?

Tara was excited as we tackled “Project Seraph” with gusto. On each of the thirteen days before Valentine’s Day, Tara included an anonymous poem of friendship with each gift she left for Seraph: a candy bar in her gym shorts pocket, greeting cards taped inside her locker, homemade cookies on her doorstep, a bookmark for her scriptures, pencils engraved with her name, and even a call from the principal’s office inviting her to retrieve a mystery lunch.

The finale on Valentine’s Day was a bouquet of flowers. It was tempting for Tara to reveal her identity, but she remained true to our pledge of secrecy, which was prompted by the scripture reminding us that charity “seeketh not her own.” (Moro. 7:45.)

Coach Mason was Tara’s accomplice in the delightful subterfuge. Together they witnessed Seraph’s occasional smiles and spontaneous laughter gradually replacing her self-consciousness and enhancing her previously hidden beauty.

Tara derived so much pleasure from “Project Seraph” that long after Valentine’s Day, she continued to surprise Seraph with weekly notes, holiday gifts, and a “happy un-birthday” cake to share with the gym class.

On the last day of school, Tara found a note taped inside Seraph’s locker. “Dear Mystery Person, I hope you get this note. You have made me happier than I’ve ever been before. You are my only friend. I love you. Seraph.” Tara’s joy was full.

Seraph moved away that summer, but my family will always cherish the gift of charity she helped plant in our hearts.

[illustration] Illustrated by Ron Peterson

Janet L. Schiller serves on the Relief Society board in the Cedar Hills First Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Manila Stake.

Show References

  1.   *

    Name has been changed