Thomas Spencer Monson was named for his grandfather Thomas Condie. Young Tommy learned many lessons from his grandfather, who lived just a few houses away. The lesson he best remembers was about how to serve others.

One day when Tommy was about eight years old, he and his grandfather were sitting on the front-porch swing. An elderly man from England lived on the same street. His name was Robert Dicks, but most of the neighbors just called him “Old Bob.” He was widowed and poor.

Old Bob came over and sat down on the porch swing with Tommy and his grandfather. He said that the small adobe house where he lived was going to be torn down. He had no family, no money, and nowhere to go.

Tommy wondered how his grandfather would respond to the sad story. His grandfather reached into his pocket and pulled out a small leather change purse. He took out a key and put it in Old Bob’s hand. “Mr. Dicks,” he said kindly, “you can move your things into that empty house of mine next door. It won’t cost you a cent, and you can stay there as long as you like. And remember, nobody is ever going to put you out again.” Tears filled Old Bob’s eyes.

Tommy’s mother also taught him how to love and serve others. Every Sunday before the Monson family ate dinner, Tommy’s mother prepared a plate of roast beef, potatoes, and gravy for Old Bob. Sometimes it also included Tommy’s mother’s famous ribbon cake with layers of green, pink, and yellow cake and chocolate frosting. Tommy’s job was to deliver the dinner to Old Bob.

At first Tommy did not understand why he couldn’t eat first and then take the plate over. But he never complained. He would run quickly down to Old Bob’s house, balancing the full plate. Then he would wait anxiously as Old Bob came slowly to the door.

The two would then trade plates—Bob’s clean plate from the previous Sunday and Tommy’s plate piled high with food. Then Bob would offer a dime as payment for the kindness.

Tommy’s answer was always the same: “I can’t accept the money. My mother would tan my hide.”

The old gentleman would pat Tommy’s blond hair and say, “My boy, you have a wonderful mother. Tell her thank you.” When Tommy reported the compliment from Old Bob back to his mother, her eyes glistened with tears.

Showing charity, giving unselfishly to others, putting others first, and being a good friend and neighbor were important in the Monson home. They have become the hallmark of President Monson’s life.

Illustration by Paul Mann; photo by Matt Reir (top); photo courtesy of Monson family (right)

I have an older sister!

And I like homemade ice cream—I guess we’re both like President Monson!

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  • Answers: 1) c; 2) e; 3) f; 4) a; 5) b; 6) d.