Tasting the Sweetness of Service

By Janet Thomas

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    A small Vietnamese woman struggles to lift a frozen turkey out of the supermarket freezer. Her husband examines it and with an ear-splitting grin turns to the two young American girls standing beside him. “Chicken?” he asks. The group bursts into giggles. The two girls try to explain in simplified English that this large fowl is not a super species of chicken but is a turkey.

    The girls are from the Riverside Stake in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a stake service project, they are sponsoring a Vietnamese family. One of their tasks has been to introduce the family to an American supermarket. “Our first trip to the grocery store was definitely memorable,” said Laurie Sperry, Center First Ward. “We did a lot of laughing together.”

    The job of sponsoring a refugee family involved many of the young women. They helped in the search for a suitable place for the family to live, in gathering clothes and bedding, in enrolling the children in school, and in giving the small family a tour of the city.

    “Even though we couldn’t communicate in words,” said Laurie, “we could feel their gratitude.”

    The girls of the Riverside Stake tasted the sweetness of service. And what started as a service project has turned into a caring, helping relationship between friends.

    This joyful service was repeated with countless variations by 12 Salt Lake Valley stakes that presented their project results to past and present Young Women General Board members gathered to celebrate the 112th anniversary of the Young Women organization. The projects ranged from working with handicapped children to caring for older people in the community.

    The girls in the Salt Lake East Millcreek Fourth Ward kept track of their acts of charity in a candy jar. Each week the girls put a piece of candy into the jar for each act of service they had been involved in that week. As the jar filled with the sweets, the girls were reminded of the sweetness of service. When the jar was full, the girls selected a special family and presented the jar to them, explaining what the filled jar meant—each candy represented a charitable act.

    The Salt Lake Holladay Stake became involved in a project for handicapped youth. Suzanne Hardman of the Eleventh Ward said, “We helped teach the Young Women classes. The handicapped girls were always so glad to see us. They are so special, you just want to be with them.” Many of the girls in the Holladay Stake have continued their service to the handicapped.

    At the Primary for handicapped children, the girls needed to work with the young people on a one-to-one basis. “We love to go,” said Carrie Nielson of the First Ward, “because you feel so secure and wanted. You come out feeling like they did a service for you.”

    Several stakes chose to serve the older members of their areas. In the Salt Lake Holladay North Stake, each Young Women class adopted a “grandmother” or “grandfather” to help throughout the year. They took turns helping with transportation and home cleaning. In addition, the girls arranged to tape record the older members’ personal histories. They transcribed the tapes and made a typewritten copy for each grandmother and grandfather to keep, with enough extra copies to give to their children.

    Stakes in the Ogden, Utah area performed a service that not only delighted thousands of visitors to Temple Square in Salt Lake City during the Christmas season, but brought joy to dozens of children in Israel. The Young Women made stuffed dolls dressed in the native costumes of nations throughout the world. The dolls were tied with wide red ribbons to Christmas trees in both the North and South Visitors’ Centers on Temple Square. Each girl researched the country her doll was to represent and tried to make the costume look as authentic as possible. She then attached a note with her name and address to the doll.

    After Christmas, the dolls were transported to Israel where they were given to Arab orphans in Bethlehem. When the first doll was delivered, a small girl wearing glasses named Ikhlass received it. She clung to her new doll throughout the day, taking it with her as she played, ate, and slept.

    Donalyn Lewis of the Salt Lake Cannon Stake found that giving service also made her feel better about herself. After working with a project involving elderly members of her ward, Donalyn said, “They make me feel like I’m somebody.” And Kara Nelsen of the Salt Lake Holladay Stake discovered the long-lasting and profound effect service can have. Kara said, “In order to love someone, you have to get to know them.”

    Service defies the laws of give and take. It is a special thing that gives to the giver as well as giving to the receiver. The sweet taste of service comes to both. It fills those in need and it satisfies those who give. Taste the sweetness of service.