Scott’s Gift


Giving doesn’t have to be done in great works of renown.

Scott was not the best athlete in his high school. He had not carried the ball or tackled anyone in football, won any races in track and field, or scored any points in basketball. Yet that year his school’s athletes, coaches, and parents gathered to present him with their most prestigious award, the award for best athlete of the year. In the past, young men and women who received the award were on championship teams or won individual honors. Several had gone on to college with scholarships attesting to their abilities. Why they now gave the highest award to someone who had not been a member of any team is a story of sensitivity and gratitude for a boy honored for a different type of achievement.

I know this story because I am Scott’s priesthood adviser. I knew that Scott was given the award because he had, as manager of the football team, contributed his enthusiasm, warmth, and work to the team members. After one ugly incident when Scott was abused by a member of the team, the coach and other team members became very protective of him. Because of their love they voted to give him the award.

One Sunday as I sat watching the priests in my quorum, my attention rested on Scott. It occurred to me that Scott had given gifts other than those of a team manager, and yet he was unaware he had done so. In fact, his gifts have been so remarkable they have extended well beyond the boundaries of our ward and involved many individuals in our community.

Scott is my next-door neighbor. He is about six feet tall, has light blue eyes; brown hair, a continual smile, and a friendly greeting for everyone. Sometimes he stops in on the way to church to make sure his tie is tied correctly. He does yard work for his parents and plays with the neighborhood children. He is sometimes sad and even gets angry. I know him well enough to recognize that he would be the last to think he has given others so much. I want to tell his story because it is a wonderful example of how one person’s life influences many others. Looking back, the events in which he participated developed quite naturally—so much so, that no one could have possibly foreseen what has happened. To some, perhaps, what I am about to describe may seem commonplace and unimportant. For me, these common moments of life are often the most enduring.

Clint Dalley was the first assistant to the president in the priests quorum that year and one of those natural All-American athletes. Scott liked Clint and probably gravitated to him because of Clint’s athletic successes. Clint, however, was busy trying to make those important life decisions and was quite busy with many activities. As a result, the two did not spend a great deal of time together. Like other quorum members, Clint gave Scott a ride occasionally or sometimes they went for a soft drink at the local drive-in.

They came together one springtime in our town of Highland, Utah, because of a basketball tournament. It is traditional for all men and boys in the ward to be formed into basketball teams and participate in the “H.A.C.” tournament. The initials stand for Highland Athletic Commission (no one knows why they named it that), but those who participate think the name “HAC” describes how rough the hacking fouls are.

That year I was selected to be the coach for one team and found that both Clint and Scott had been chosen as team members. During each game, I made sure that everyone on the team played. Because of Clint and some other players my team kept winning during the three nights of play and eventually won the championship. After the last game, Scott’s mother stopped to thank me for allowing Scott to play in the games, “even when the score was close,” she said. She was aware that because of the intensity of play other team members might resent Scott’s participation. He is moderately handicapped and is not very coordinated. But I told her that Scott did just fine and made his contribution. In fact, when he played the pressure on everyone was reduced and basketball became more fun and less competitive. I noted that after the last game Clint left with Scott, and Clint’s dad told me they were going to get an ice cream cone before going home. I learned later that from that moment they spent more time than usual together.

Two weeks later, as sacrament meeting began, the priests and deacons took their places close to the sacrament table. Because we have a large ward, three priests are required, with one sitting next to the wall serving as a witness. I noticed right away that Scott and Clint had taken the two positions of the priests who did administer the sacrament prayers. I was more than a bit nervous because, to my knowledge, Scott had never offered a sacrament prayer due to his difficulty in reading and speaking. Out of my apprehension, I looked at Clint who, as usual, seemed unconcerned and was calmly looking around the chapel. My inability to attract his attention to the matter worsened my fear, and I nearly arose to straighten out the situation. I did not want Scott to be embarrassed by failing to properly offer the prayer. Yet I didn’t want to disappoint him by asking him to leave.

Before I could decide what to do, the meeting began and proceeded as usual. I thought no one was aware, except the priests and me, of what was going to happen. But when it was time to have the blessing on the water, and Scott knelt before the sacrament, I knew I was not the only one whose heart began to beat faster. Everyone suddenly quieted, even the babies. Scott began to slowly say the prayer, sounding each word carefully and distinctly, occasionally mispronouncing one and having to say it again correctly before going on. The air was electric. It was possible to feel everyone’s attention riveted on that boy, giving him silent support. I followed word by word that familiar and oft-repeated prayer. Finally, after what seemed a long time, he finished with a resounding “Ah-men,” and the relieved congregation responded with an “Amen” that truly was a united voice of gratitude.

Scott was so pleased with himself that for a moment he stood smiling, looking around the chapel before thinking to hand the trays to the waiting deacons. I was so relieved and pleased he had succeeded that I failed to recognize for several days he had helped everyone pay more attention to each word of the sacrament prayer. Because of him the prayer that day had added significance. It truly was a unifying spiritual event for all who were there. After the meeting, as we congratulated Scott, Clint matter-of-factly told of teaching the prayer to him, and they both went their separate ways.

A year has passed since then, during which Scott has been an active member of our quorum. He brings his scriptures each week and reads with the others in a missionary preparation class and quorum meetings. He is accorded the same friendship without condescension that all receive, but I know the members of the quorum notice him and have been affected by him.

During the basketball season of 1984, our ward team competed with other ward teams of our stake. As the season progressed, Scott had a chance to play, and as long as I was there I never heard any of the other players complain or say anything indicating resentment. Quite frequently, in fact, special efforts were made to give Scott an opportunity to score points. No one suggested it. Trying to help him make a basket seemed so natural that nothing special was said about it. The unspoken acceptance of Scott by everyone is what makes it so remarkable.

The team advanced to the area tournament, and it was during the semi-final game that one of Scott’s gifts was given. As usual Scott had a chance to play, but as it turned out, the opposing team was winning by quite a wide margin. They were a good team and played well. During the game our team members often threw Scott the ball and urged him to shoot. I suppose it was because the players on the other team were intent on winning that one of them stole the ball from Scott and dribbled to his end of the court to make a basket. Instead of receiving the expected cheers, he was surprised to hear fans criticize him, even those from his own ward. Ridding himself of his confusion and embarrassment, he recognized his mistake and backed away, allowing our team to throw the ball to Scott, who was trying to make a basket before the end of the game.

Soon other players from the opposing team began to participate. So involved were they that no one noticed the scorekeeper had shut off the clock with three seconds remaining to allow Scott his opportunity. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the action on the floor. Scott would shoot, and someone from one of the teams (it didn’t matter which) would rebound and throw it to Scott. Finally a shot went in and everyone cheered, the clock was turned on, and the game ended. Players ran to congratulate Scott, and our losing team evidenced little sadness about their loss. Observers left the game with a feeling very different from those of winners or losers. Scott had enabled all to participate in a gift of kindness and warmth that uplifted all who saw it. Souls were fed that evening instead of just being entertained.

I received the report of that game from Jeff LeBaron who, as Scott’s neighbor, had given him a ride and saw to it that he participated. I enjoyed the story and suggested to my son Dan, the other assistant in the priests quorum, that he have it told in priesthood meeting the following Sunday. As he conducted the meeting, he congratulated Scott and told of the events of the game. A warm feeling was created in our quorum as some of the players told additional details. Scott was congratulated by many, and we went on to the lesson thinking no more about the matter instead of appreciating the unity we all felt.

These events seemed quite unimportant to us then. Even today few attach any significance to them. I, like others, just acknowledged them as part of my adviser’s experience and merely shared them with my family. I realized how important they are, however, when my wife and I later attended the American Fork High School graduation ceremonies. They were held in the community tabernacle, and an estimated 1,200 people attended.

During the program Scott Squires, an articulate senior class president, began to address the audience. He described the graduating class as a group who dreamed important dreams and cared about important things. As an example of their character he described the events of the tournament game in which Scott participated, telling that members of the graduating class were those who cared unselfishly. He was not from our ward and was a witness because his ward’s team was to play a later game. He obviously was impressed because he retold the story weeks after it happened. Unwittingly he made Scott’s gift available to more people because of his telling. Now, many others were to be uplifted.

I tried to gauge the reaction of the audience to this story, but found I could not get a clear indication of what they thought. Afterwards, though, standing on the lawn talking with friends, more than once I heard comments about “that nice story.” Scott’s gifts to us were carried beyond our quorum and ward to our community. As I rode home that night, I reviewed all that has happened this last year and knew how great his gifts have been.

His existence has taught tolerance, unselfishness, and sensitivity to others. His cheerful participation has altered situations that could have been negative frustrations and made them glad occasions. Truly, Scott has shown that the “works of God should be made manifest” to us (John 9:3).

Understanding the far-reaching effects this one boy has had makes one wonder about the amount of potential good that can be done by many. We sometimes think that we must hold positions or be popular in order to successfully make our contributions to improve the quality of life. Those who do not have this status often feel less significant and useful. We all can learn from Scott that giving doesn’t have to be done in great works of renown; it only requires positive involvement and a willingness to express to others the good that is within us. This gift, in the end, is the best of all possible gifts, and anyone can give it at any time.

[photo] Photo by Eldon Linschoten