Give of Yourself

By Vera Ogden Bakker

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    Be full of charity towards all men (D&C 121:45).

    “Sister Brimley, could I talk to you for a minute?” I asked after Primary.

    “Of course, Sara. Let’s gather up the pictures and fold the chairs while we talk.”

    I stacked the pictures, but we didn’t get to the chairs for a while.

    “Lots of people must know about that lesson you gave today on giving,” I began. “And since my dad’s been out of work, people are always bringing us things. Mom and Dad get tears in their eyes when they talk about how good everyone’s been to us. But now I’d like to give someone something. You always say it’s more blessed to give than to receive. How do you think it makes me feel to always receive? I’d like to take food to someone who’s hungry, but Mom says we don’t have any extras.” I couldn’t control the tremor in my voice. “I hope I can be rich when I grow up.”

    Sister Brimley sat across from me and took my hand in hers. Her eyes looked deep into mine, and she gave me her special warm smile. “Sara, you don’t have to be rich to give of yourself. Jesus wasn’t rich, and look how much He gave.”

    “I’m not Jesus. I can’t do miracles to help people.”

    “Will you do something for me, Sara? Will you look for one person this week who needs something you can share? Will you, like Jesus, give of yourself?” Sister Brimley continued to look me straight in the eyes. I had to say yes.

    Monday at school, I looked at the other kids. They had better clothes and shoes than I did, so I couldn’t offer them mine. Anyway, I didn’t have any extras. Everyone had a lunch, so I couldn’t share my sandwich. I was afraid that the whole week would be like this and that I’d have to tell Sister Brimley that I hadn’t found anyone to help.

    At afternoon recess, the spring sun warmed my back. There must have been a hundred birds singing among the tiny yellow-green leaves on the big tree in the playground. I forgot about giving and Mrs. Brimley, took a jump rope, and walked towards Maria. Maria just moved here last week, and she doesn’t speak English very well. She mostly stands by herself on the playground.

    “Maria, want to jump? Like this.” I jumped a few times. Maria’s dark eyes sparkled, and the shadow of a smile tickled her bronze face. She nodded. As I swung the rope over my head, she jumped in with me. We were laughing together by the end of recess.

    When the bell rang to go home, Mrs. Hansen, our teacher, put her arm around me and whispered, “Sara, thank you for playing with Maria today. That’s the first time I’ve heard her laugh since she came.”

    Suddenly I understood that this was what Sister Brimley meant when she said for me to give of myself. I really did have something to give! I determined right then and there to find someone every day to share with.

    The next day, I asked Maria to come with me. We went to Mrs. Smith’s house after school. She was sitting in an old chair on her front porch, rocking with her cat. I asked her if she’d like me to read her a story.

    “Why, Sara, I’d love that, but I gave all my books away when my eyes got bad.”

    “That’s OK. I brought one from school.” I sat on her top step with Maria and read her my favorite Dr. Seuss story. Mrs. Smith and Maria laughed until the tears rolled down their cheeks. I think it must be their favorite story too. Mrs. Smith asked if we could come again next Tuesday. This giving of yourself was wonderful. Mrs. Smith and Maria looked really happy, and I hadn’t felt this great in ages.

    On Wednesday Maria and I helped Brother Swenson plant petunias. It’s hard for him to stoop that low, but Maria and I planted his whole bed in a half hour. He told us to come back in the summer and pick a bouquet for our moms.

    By the weekend, I had started giving to my family. I cleaned the kitchen one evening for Mom, I played a game of checkers with Dad, and I helped my little brother, Jason, with his puzzle.

    On Sunday I couldn’t wait until Primary to talk to Sister Brimley, so I met her at the chapel door. “Sister Brimley, you won’t believe this! I found six people to give of myself to this week.” I told her about each of them. “But I can’t think of anyone for today.”

    Sister Brimley stooped and put her arm around me and spoke in a tiny, low voice. “You’ve already given of yourself, Sara—to me. You see, I was very, very discouraged. I felt as though I wasn’t doing a good job as a teacher. You showed me that I can make a difference. Sometimes we may need things, but often we just need people to just give of themselves, as Jesus did and as you have. I think that He must be very pleased with you.”

    Both Sara and Sister Brimley felt good about themselves as they went into the chapel together.

    Illustrated by Julie F. Young