After our three eldest sons grew up and moved out of our home, and our youngest became busy with all the activities of high school, I found myself feeling lonely. In spite of staying busy with my family, business, and Church work, I still felt something was missing. My transition to becoming an “empty-nester” was painful.
Then I learned about Matthew. He was a four-year-old with freckles, curly red hair, and a hesitant smile. His family had moved onto our street and into our ward a few years before. Although I had often spoken to them, I had never really gotten to know them—until Matthew was diagnosed with diabetes.
Late one night his father called and asked my husband, Sherm, who was a member of the bishopric, to give Matthew a blessing. The next morning Sherm told me that Matthew had been rushed to the hospital to be treated for diabetic shock. Then he asked me to help Matthew’s family with whatever they needed that week. I took the charge seriously.
I called the house regularly to talk to the other children, stopped by whenever I could, and ran various errands for them. I took in dinner one night and arranged for others to do the same. I visited Matthew in the hospital. When he was released, I fussed over him at home. But mostly I watched helplessly as Matthew and his family struggled to make the necessary adjustments in their lifestyle. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know what more to do.
One day I opened my front door and found Matthew’s mom crying. I listened while she poured out her heart. Matthew’s diabetes had taken its toll on the entire family. The Halloween holiday was approaching, and she could envision his disappointment as he went door-to-door with other children to collect sugary sweets that he alone could not eat. Being different from the other children was going to be hard on four-year-old Matthew. I realized then what I could do.
During the upcoming days, I bought some noncandy treats and tracked down sugar-free candy. Then I found some small orange gift bags and Halloween stickers and prepared 26 notes of explanation to accompany the bags. A couple of days before Halloween, I packed, decorated, and labeled the special gift bags for Matthew. I found myself enjoying the work involved, and I especially looked forward to seeing his reaction.
The morning of Halloween I called the Primary president and asked her to come over. As she curiously surveyed the jumble of treats in my living room, I explained Matthew’s situation and asked for her help to distribute the gift bags. She readily agreed and I handed her 11 treat bags with 11 notes of explanation for delivery to the houses on her street. My visiting teacher went to the eight houses on her street, and my youngest son went to the seven on ours.
On Halloween evening I answered the door dozens of times; I exclaimed over each costume, handed out treats, and waited for Matthew. When he finally arrived, he was dragging a shopping sack two-thirds his size that was brimming with little orange gift bags. I added mine and hoped he was happy.
The next day I received a hand-scribbled thank-you card from Matthew and a letter from his mother that read:
“Yesterday was a hard day for Matthew. He was aware that things were going to be different for him. My husband took him trick-or-treating, so I didn’t get to see the expression on Matthew’s face as he collected his special Halloween treats, but I could imagine it. The difference in his mood from when he left to when he returned was like night and day. He was so excited. He enjoyed every treat, and he shared them with his brother (who forgot all about his Halloween candy). It was as if he were finally able to accept his diabetes—and be happy at the same time.”
Tears trickled down my face as I read and re-read the last line. I experienced joy as I felt I had made a real difference in someone’s life.
The Savior taught, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:25). I realized that when I lost myself in my project for Matthew, I thought less about my own troubles and more about the needs of others. Through service to someone in need, I found the fulfillment I had been looking for.
“Forget yourself and find someone who needs your service, and you will discover the secret to a happy, fulfilled life.”
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), “This Is a Day of Sacrifice,” Ensign, May 1979, 34.