The Little Wise Men


Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matt. 25:40).

My little brother, Joel, and I had been waiting for days to take our friend Robby to see the lights and the manger scene on Temple Square. Ever since we’d mentioned going, Robby had been counting the days.

You see, Robby had never seen Temple Square at Christmastime, and this was his first Christmas outside of a hospital in two years. He still can’t walk, and his right hand and arm are all crooked and bent. The only way that he can get around is in his silver wheelchair with someone pushing him.

Robby couldn’t go to a lot of places. He didn’t go to Primary, so Joel and I tried to take some Primary to him. We’d go over to his house, sit by his wheelchair, sing him the songs, and tell him the stories we’d learned in Primary. Robby loved it, and all week long he’d have us repeat what we’d done in Primary.

One afternoon in December we told Robby the Christmas story about Jesus being born in the manger. When we finished, he sighed and said, “Oh, I wish I could have been one of the shepherds who visited Jesus on that special night. Or one of the Wise Men who later followed the star. I would like to have seen the Baby Jesus and given Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

“There’s a manger scene on Temple Square,” Joel said. “It’s not the real one, but it looks real.”

Robby’s eyes got big, and his smile seemed to go from the tip of his chin to the ends of his ears. “That’s where I’d like to go for Christmas,” he said. Then his smile disappeared. “But I don’t see how I could,” he said, running his good hand over his wheelchair.

Robby had recently moved to Salt Lake City. He was the only child in his family, and his mom and dad traveled a lot. They didn’t ever seem to have time to take Robby anywhere. Of course, Robby had Mrs. Helber, who took care of him while his mom and dad were away; but she was older and didn’t drive a car.

“We’ll take you to Temple Square,” Joel declared one afternoon as we all sat at Robby’s window and watched a million snowflakes flutter to the ground. “We’ll get Dad to help us,” he said firmly, “won’t we, Jeremy?”

“Do you really think you could?” Robby asked, glancing at me pleadingly. “I’d like going, Jeremy—more than anything else!”

I smiled. “We’ll get you to Temple Square,” I told him. “That’s a promise.”

Now it was the Friday before Christmas. Joel and I had stopped by Robby’s place late in the afternoon to see if he would be ready to go that evening. Robby’s mom and dad were gone, and we could hear Mrs. Helber in the kitchen fixing supper. It was getting dark, and Robby asked anxiously, “Your dad won’t forget will he?”

I patted Robby on the shoulder. “Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll be back in an hour and a half to pick you up. Dad won’t forget.”

But Dad did forget! He was getting ready for a meeting over at the church when we came home.

“To a meeting?” Joel gasped.

“But what about taking Robby to Temple Square?” I cried.

Dad groaned and hit his forehead with his hand. “Oh, no! Was that tonight?”

Joel and I couldn’t even nod. We just stared, suddenly feeling sick.

“Brother Thomas asked me to go over to a planning meeting,” Dad explained. “When he talked to me this morning, I forgot about our trip with Robby. I’m really sorry, boys. Can we go another time? How about tomorrow?”

“Robby’s been counting on going tonight,” Joel mumbled. But I don’t think Dad heard. I could tell that Dad felt really bad; he doesn’t usually forget.

After supper Dad left for his meeting, and Joel and I told Mom we were going over to Robby’s. We put on our coats, hats, gloves, and boots and stepped out into the dark night. The snow crunched under our boots, and big puffs of steam blew out of our mouths and noses as we breathed.

“How are we ever going to explain this to Robby?” Joel wanted to know when we were outside. “We just can’t let him down. He’s been waiting for this for a long time.”

“I don’t know what we can do. Dad’s already gone, and he won’t be back till late.”

Joel grabbed my arm and whispered, “Maybe we could take him, Jeremy.”

“Us?” I said. “That’s seven or eight, maybe ten blocks. Who’d we get to drive us down there?”

“We’ll push him in his wheelchair. We can do it!” Joel coaxed. “Most of it’s downhill. Besides, we just have to take him, Jeremy! We can’t tell him that Dad forgot.”

I thought for a minute. “We’ll ask Robby,” I said. “If he wants to go in his wheelchair, we’ll take him.”

When we got to Robby’s place, he was waiting right by the front door, with his coat and hat on. A scarf was tied around his neck, and a blanket was tucked in around his legs. “Let’s go,” he greeted us. “I already told Mrs. Helber good-bye.”

I pulled off my gloves and stared at the floor. “Dad can’t come,” I explained. “He had to go to a meeting.” I glanced up and saw Robby’s smile droop. For a minute I wondered if he was going to cry.

“But we’ll take you,” Joel blurted out. “We’ll push you. Do you still want to go?”

Robby’s smile returned, and he nodded furiously.

“It will be cold,” I warned. “And it’s a long way just walking.”

“We can make it!” Robby grinned. “I know we can.”

A shiver of excitement tickled the back of my neck as I gripped the handles on Robby’s wheelchair and began pushing it down the sidewalk.

We walked block after block. Since it was mostly downhill, it wasn’t hard pushing Robby at first, but after a while all that walking made my legs tired. Joel tried to help, but he could barely see over the back of the chair, so I had to do most the pushing.

I was getting a little worried about whether I’d remembered the way right, because I had never gone to Temple Square without a grownup, when Robby called out, “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” Joel asked.

“That gold statue lighted up on top of the pointy building.”

Joel and I smiled. “That’s the Angel Moroni on top of the temple,” I said. “That’s where we’re going.”

“You mean that all we have to do is follow the light and we’ll find the place?”

“That’s all,” I said.

Robby smiled back at me and said, “We have our very own angel to show us the way.”

Robby wouldn’t take his eyes off the gold statue on top of the temple. And I wasn’t worried anymore because I knew we’d soon be there.

A few flakes of snow started to fall as we crossed the last street. We could see most of the spires of the temple now, and we could see the walls around Temple Square.

Joel led the way as we squeezed through the crowds of people and made our way inside the wide gates. My legs were tired, and my cheeks were numb, but I kept pushing, knowing that we were almost to the manger scene. All the while, Robby was straining forward to see the colored lights.

I glanced back toward the street and suddenly realized that it was blocks and blocks back to our house—all uphill! A sick feeling came over me, and I wondered if we would be able to push Robby back home. Then I saw Robby’s face as he stared at the Christmas lights that Joel and I had told him so much about.

Temple Square was sparkling with thousands of lights—in the trees, on the bushes, everywhere. And they all seemed to reflect off Robby’s beaming face. “It’s beautiful!” he whispered. “More beautiful than you said.”

We came to the manger scene in the middle of a big, snow-covered lawn just as a light shone down on a group of shepherds. A voice began to speak, and quiet music began to play.

Robby didn’t say anything. He just stared. The voice told the Christmas story almost the way Joel and I had told it to Robby, but it was so much better here, because we could see it almost like it had happened so many years before.

Then the light shone on the manger, and we saw Jesus and Mary and Joseph. Finally the light fell on the Wise Men who were following the special star to see the Baby Jesus. Robby turned around and whispered, “We followed a kind of star too.” He pointed above us toward the Angel Moroni. “Tonight we were like the Wise Men.”

Three times that night we listened to the Christmas story, standing in the cold and looking at the manger. Even when Robby started to shiver from the cold, he wouldn’t let us leave the beautiful manger scene.

But it was getting late, and I knew we’d have to go back. We pushed Robby through the gates, and I stopped and gulped. My feet were numb, my nose and cheeks burned with cold, and an icy wind had started to blow, making tears come to my eyes. I was so tired that I wanted to cry, but I knew that I couldn’t, not with Robby and Joel depending on me. Instead, I bowed my head and said a little prayer, asking Heavenly Father to help us get home safely.

After going about a block, a voice called, “Jeremy! Joel! Robby!” I turned, and there was Dad hurrying across the street, waving to us. He rushed up to us and hugged Joel and me and patted Robby on the shoulder. “I thought you were lost for sure,” he panted, looking more worried than I had ever seen him. “Then I remembered how much you had been counting on bringing Robby here.”

A few minutes later we reached our car. Dad put Robby and Joel on the back seat and set the wheelchair in the trunk. I climbed up front with Dad.

“I hope you’re not mad,” I said. “We just had to bring Robby.” I looked down at my hands. “We won’t do it again, but we couldn’t let Robby down, not at Christmastime.”

Dad took a deep breath as he started the engine. “Sometimes there are more important things than meetings,” he whispered. “I learned that tonight.” He put his hand on my shoulder and pulled me against him.

“It was so beautiful,” I whispered. I could feel a lump in my throat. “We followed the light and went right to the manger, just like the Wise Men.” I was quiet for a moment. “But we didn’t leave a gift,” I mumbled. “Not like the other Wise Men did. We didn’t have any gold or frankincense or myrrh.”

Dad held me close for a moment while he drove. Then he told me, “Oh, but you gave an even better gift. You gave a gift of love to Robby. What you gave to Robby, you were really giving to Jesus, and a gift of love is the very best gift of all.”

“Are you sure, Dad?” I whispered.

“I’m sure,” he said.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann