The Case of the Flat Tires
My wife and I had just started managing an apartment complex when our car got a flat tire in the driveway. I took it in stride, put on the spare, and went to get the original tire fixed. As I tried to pay for the repair, I was told there would be no charge. When I asked why, the repairman told me that he had just put the air back in because there had been no leaks, just a small rock in the valve stem. That’s when the case of the flat tires began.
Over the next year we had repeated flat tires, and each time we found that someone had been letting out the air. Sometimes only one was flat, sometimes two. I had to purchase a hand pump to take care of the problem. My wife and I tried to find out who was letting out the air, but with no success. However, we had a strong suspicion that a certain 12-year-old boy living in our neighborhood was having fun at our expense. We thought of approaching the boy’s mother but couldn’t since we had no evidence he was letting out the air. We became very angry that the inconvenience of flat tires caused us to be late for meetings and work.
Sometimes I would look up while fixing the tire and see the boy. He seemed to be laughing, and while I wanted to yell at him, I knew that was not the kind thing to do. In recent years I had improved my attitude about kindness. In fact, I had developed a little saying to keep myself on track. I would say to myself:
I began to ask Heavenly Father to help me solve the problem. I always received the impression to be patient, and then my little verse would go through my head. Although my wife and I were frustrated that we could not resolve the problem, we knew things would work out. We just kept asking Heavenly Father to help us resolve it.
A year after the problem had started I became very sick. Our bishop rushed me to the doctor’s office, where I found out I had appendicitis. I was admitted to the hospital for an operation, and after a short stay I was sent home with strict instructions not to put stress on my healing body.
Shortly after I got home, my wife helped me to bed and read me to sleep. She then went to get me some essential medicine. The next thing I knew, she was waking me up.
“Marvin, all four tires on the car are flat!” she exclaimed. “I need to get your medicine—should I call our home teacher?”
After clearing my head of sleep, I said a short prayer asking for help. Rather than asking the home teacher for help, I felt distinctly prompted to ask the young boy! The impression shocked me!
I pondered this answer for almost half an hour before asking my wife back into the bedroom.
“Don’t call our home teacher,” I told her. “Instead, go visit the mother of the boy. Explain to her what has happened and ask if her son can help you fix the tires I cannot.”
My wife did so, and soon the tires were fixed and the medicine obtained. Later, I asked the boy to the house so I could thank him. I could tell he was uncomfortable about the whole matter, but his mother was so proud of him.
A funny thing happened after that—the boy became a friend and we had no more flat tires. Once again, I learned that being patient and kind brings the best results.
At My Father’s Feet
I have never been a relaxed airplane passenger. My heart pounds frantically, my palms become damp, and my feet tap rhythmically from takeoff to landing. However, as I flew toward my parents’ home near Sacramento, California, on an overcast February day, the bumpy flight was the least of my worries. A parent of five children, I was in the middle of a divorce, and my father was dying.
My dad, simply put, was wonderful. He was handsome, funny, and kind, and he always put my mother and his five daughters first. Although not a member of the Church, he never missed a “daddy-daughter date” or a late night trip to the stake center to retrieve us after a regional dance. He was a successful businessman who taught us honesty, the value of hard work, and the importance of enjoying life’s journey. Now, just a year after retirement, he was losing his battle with lung cancer.
My father had given up smoking 11 years earlier, but the damage had already been done. The morning before my journey began, I had received a call from my sister telling me that Dad was not doing well and that I needed to come right away to say good-bye.
I was not prepared for my father’s frail appearance as I entered my parents’ home. He was so thin! His thick dark hair was gone because of the chemotherapy, and a hospital bed now held a prominent place in the family room. I was devastated by his rapid decline in the few weeks since I’d seen him at Christmas.
As I made my way down the hall, Dad heard my steps. He turned toward me, smiled, held out his arms, and said, “Julie’s home!” I held myself together for 20 minutes as we talked, then slipped into the kitchen and fell weeping quietly into my sister Kimberlee’s arms.
The next morning, after very little sleep, I began to help my mother in her daily routine. This particular morning, my mom had an appointment, and my sister Kimberlee and I were delegated the task of bathing my father, rubbing him with lotion, and helping him into fresh pajamas.
As Kim and I prepared warm, soapy water and gathered supplies, I told her I was not sure I could do this without falling apart. Kim answered thoughtfully: “I really feel it is a privilege to care for someone who has given so much to me. I want Dad to remember me smiling and happy.”
Kim, my junior by 12 years, was displaying a calm assuredness that I did not feel but vowed to emulate.
Finishing our preparations, I carried the basin, towel, and washcloth to the family room and, kneeling before my father, began to wash his feet and legs. At that moment I forgot my troubles. My thoughts turned to the Savior.
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
“After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wipe the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:4–5).
It occurred to me that serving another in this way is an act of great love and devotion. It is a privilege to symbolically wash away the dirt and grime of someone’s troubles, the pain of a strained relationship, and the cares of an unforgiving world.
As I gently cleansed my dear father, it did indeed become a privilege for me. My father, who had given me so much and required so little of me, had now provided me with an opportunity to do something that brought my heart closer to him and to my Savior, Jesus Christ.
“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
My father passed away just two days later. When I think of those last few days, I realize that I must always follow the Savior’s example and take advantage of every opportunity to serve others.
Time for the Sabbath
As a busy young mother, I was running on empty. I had an energetic 13-month-old daughter, a home business, and a husband who was a student and worked two part-time jobs. We were also the resident managers of a storage facility. The spiritual reserves I relied on to carry me through my busy days didn’t seem to be deep enough. I just didn’t have enough in me to do all I needed to do.
After months of disorganized attempts to run my business and household, I finally turned to Heavenly Father in prayer, asking for His guidance in becoming better organized. The answer came, clear and simple: Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Although I felt I needed more time to spend on household duties, I obeyed the prompting and put aside my weekly projects for a day. I soon gained a testimony of the blessings of the Sabbath. As I kept the Sabbath day holy, I felt a new strength to do what was required of me during the other days of the week. Our home became more peaceful, and we were even blessed financially.
I learned that Heavenly Father knows what all of us go through on a day-to-day basis and that we can feel overwhelmed by the many demands on our time. He set apart one day for us to replenish our spiritual reserves by attending Church meetings, studying the scriptures, writing in our journals, visiting those in need of encouragement, and serving others in the manner in which He directs us. This day is not a punishment but a blessing that enriches our lives.
I began to view this commandment in the same light that I look at the commandment to pay a tithe: When I give my Sundays entirely and unselfishly to Heavenly Father, He blesses the efforts I make the six other days.
A Circle of Service
Several months after serving in the Air Force, my husband and I moved with our three children away from family and friends to Phoenix, Arizona. It was a leap of faith because we were without means and had no employment waiting for us there.
My husband eventually found employment, but at times we ran out of money and food before the month ended. Each time, just when we needed help and before we could speak to anyone about it, my Relief Society president would deliver a box of food from an anonymous person in the ward. It was a great blessing and a wonderful demonstration to us that the Lord was aware of our needs.
We finally reached a point where our income was sufficient for the needs of our growing family. I gave a note to the Relief Society president and asked her to deliver it to the kind ward member who had always seemed to know when we needed help. In the note, I thanked the person for his or her help and said that now we were able to take care of our needs.
Several weeks later our entire family felt an overwhelming prompting to be of service to others. We wanted to demonstrate our gratitude to the Lord. We pondered several ideas, but the one that stuck with me was the idea to “adopt a grandparent.” With both sets of grandparents living in Utah, we wanted our children to have this kind of relationship where we lived in Arizona. We also wanted to teach them kindness and service by making time for an elderly person who was also away from family.
I called a few retirement and nursing home facilities, only to find that they had no “adopt a grandparent” program. Discouraged, I asked Heavenly Father to open the way if this was the right thing to do. The next Sunday, I walked into the chapel and saw an elderly woman seated on the back row in a corner. It was as if a spotlight were shining on her. I knew that the Lord had provided a grandmother for us to adopt.
After church I excitedly told my family what had happened. We invited this woman to our home the next Sunday for dinner and during the dinner asked if we could “adopt” her. She accepted our invitation, and our children began calling her “Grandma.”
Only after Sunday dinner did we discover some startling truths about Heavenly Father’s handiwork. Ruth had never had any children of her own. In addition, this dear sister who had agreed to be a grandmother to our children was the same person who had donated the boxes of food to us when we were struggling to make ends meet! She had not known who was receiving her gifts until the Relief Society president delivered my thank-you note to her.
It has now been years since we adopted Grandma Ruth. She has been an important part of our family and a great source of joy. She rides to church with us, attends family home evening each week, participated in the excitement of the birth and blessing of our fifth child, and often has one or two of the children spend time in her home. Many of her friends, not knowing the whole story, do not realize we are not blood-related. They only see the love we share and assume we are truly her children and grandchildren.
Heavenly Father used all of us to bring many blessings full circle. This wonderful experience strengthened us as a family and helped us learn to rely on the Lord.