“Evacuate your homes now!” bellowed the loudspeaker on a truck. “The fire is coming! The fire is coming!”
The forest fire raged down the mountain toward the town. Fierce winds fanned the enormous flames. Short of water and help, the firefighters couldn’t hold it back any longer. Families were going to lose their homes and belongings. There was nothing anyone could do.
Seven-year-old Catherine sat in her family’s living room, watching the news reports. It was hard to believe that the fire was only an hour away. She stared as flames licked through the treetops. She didn’t want to watch, but she couldn’t look away. She felt sad and sick.
Catherine went to her room and thought about the fire. Looking around, she wondered what it would be like to leave everything behind. She had lots of prized possessions. The most precious was Ginger, her favorite doll. She looked at her other dolls, her trophies, her toys, even her clothes and shoes. Losing everything was hard to even think about.
When Dad got home, Catherine and her parents ate dinner. They discussed the new evacuations. Tears welled up in Catherine’s eyes, and she began to cry.
“What’s the matter?” Mom asked.
“Why can’t they stop the fire?” Catherine asked. “Where will people live if their houses burn down?”
“Everyone will move into temporary shelters,” Mom answered. “They will get food, clothes, and a warm place to sleep until this is all sorted out.”
“What about their things? Who’s going to help them save their things?”
“The fire is too hot and moving too fast for anyone to think much about saving things,” Dad said. “It’s more important to make sure the people are safe. Most things can be replaced.”
Too upset to finish her supper, Catherine asked to be excused and went to her room and knelt by her bed. “Girls just like me are going to lose everything,” she prayed. “Somebody has to help them. I want to help them, but what can I do?”
When she awoke the next morning, Catherine knew exactly what to do. She filled a large shopping bag with clothes, books, and games. Last of all, she put in Ginger. “Mom, I want to donate these things,” she said. “Can you help me?”
Mom looked through the bag. “You’re giving away some of your nicest treasures,” she said. “Are you sure you want to give away Ginger?”
Catherine tried to swallow the lump in her throat. “This is what I need to do,” she said. “I know that this will help someone feel better. Will you help me?”
Mom hugged her. “Of course. The Relief Society is collecting donations. I was going to take some blankets and canned goods over this afternoon, but I think we should go right now, instead.”
The missionaries had set up a large open trailer in the ward parking lot. Waiting in line with other people who were making donations, Catherine began to feel that giving away Ginger was just too hard. She thought longingly about keeping her favorite doll. The line inched forward, giving her time to think some more. When it was her turn, she handed her bag to the Relief Society sisters, Ginger and all. Silently saying good-bye, she watched as her bag was carried to the trailer. It was so hard to give up her things! She turned and walked quietly back to the car.
That afternoon, Mom collected blankets and canned goods. When she and Catherine arrived at the meetinghouse, the trailer was full of useful things.
Back home, a television report announced that four hundred homes had been destroyed. But there was good news, too. The fire was nearly under control, and no one had been hurt.
Catherine watched the reports every night. She was worried about the four hundred families without homes. She thought about her shopping bag of treasures and wondered if it had really mattered among the thousands of other donations. And she really missed Ginger.
Suddenly Catherine sat up and looked more closely at the television screen. Something looked familiar. A little girl in a shelter was clutching a doll that looked a lot like—no, it really was—Ginger!
Catherine jumped up and squealed with delight. Her prayer had been answered. Her donation really had made a difference.
“If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times, particularly in times of need.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
(Ensign, November 2001, page 36.)