Our opportunities to do good are our talents. —Cotton Mather
Twelve Days of Christmas
It is a tradition in many homes to have some type of advent calendar that marks the approaching holiday. Whether days are marked off by the opening of another paper door on a calendar or by adding an ornament to a wall hanging, the anticipation of Christmas can be fun for everyone in the family.
Instead of using a decoration to mark off the days until Christmas, try some of these suggestions. Start twelve days before Christmas.
Pick one person or family who needs a little cheering up. Secretly leave them a special thought or treat each night for twelve days before Christmas.
Offer to baby-sit for your mother so she can go Christmas shopping alone.
Send a Christmas card to someone who doesn’t expect one from you.
Do something special for someone without them finding out.
Resolve to write thank-you notes to everyone who needs to receive one from you this year.
Try a new Christmas cookie recipe. If they turn out, take some to your neighbors.
Learn one new Christmas carol.
Help make the yard look more festive and inviting. Scrape the walks, mow the lawn, or trim the bushes.
Read a special Christmas story to younger brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, or children in the neighborhood or ward.
Take a long walk and enjoy the beauty of the world you live in.
Record in your journal the special traditions that your family has to celebrate the holidays. Make it more memorable by writing down what you feel and what moments were especially meaningful.
Bear your testimony of Christ.
Stephen E. Kimball of Huntington, New York, excels both in his school studies and in athletics. He runs on the varsity track team and was chosen to be on the all-league and all-conference teams. He is one of the highest ranked 400-meter runners in his league.
Stephen serves as first assistant in his priests quorum in the Plainview First Ward, Plainview New York Stake.
Christmas Car Wash
On the six Saturdays prior to Christmas, the Solihull businesses use the parking area adjacent to the Church area offices in Birmingham, England, as an overflow for Christmas shoppers. The young men of the Birmingham Second Ward saw it as a prime opportunity to have a special fund raising project for charity. They set up a car wash.
“The car wash was the idea of the youth,” said David Cook, Young Men president, “and I was proud not only of the effort they put in, but their dedication and high standard of performance.”
The young men took great care, and some car owners were so impressed they had their cars washed each week. And even though the young men were cold and wet at the end of each Saturday, they did not complain. They used half of their earnings to buy new sports equipment for youth activities and donated the other half of the money to three charities.
Lenora Soil, 13, won a medal and award in the annual American Legion essay contest. She placed third in her school district. She read her 500-word essay at a meeting of the American Legion in Chicago.
In her essay, Lenora wrote, “It is important for youth to have faith in America because we are the leaders of tomorrow.”
Lenora is a member of the Hyde Park Ward, Chicago Heights Illinois Stake, where her insight and sense of humor make her one of the ward’s favorite speakers.
What a Lift!
Eight young men in the Hamilton Ward, Stevensville Montana Stake, resolved a dilemma through their own initiative. The weight room at the high school was only open from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., the time they were in seminary each morning. The bishop of their ward, Robert W. Wischmeier, offered the priests of his quorum the use of an old barn if they wanted to renovate it. “It was a mess back there,” the bishop reported.
The young men jumped at the chance. With volunteer labor and materials from people and businesses in the area, the barn was eventually converted into a weight room and opened for use to other high school students. And the young men can still attend seminary without missing their workouts.
Kristin Jacobsen, 13, has learned how to answer to the title of president since she serves in that position in three organizations. Kristin served as president of the student body of her middle school. She also served as president of her Beehive class and as president of her Sunday School class.
In addition to her duties in church and school, Kristin takes piano and ballet lessons.
She is a member of the Astoria Ward, Longview Oregon Stake.
Walking For Charity
Mark Barnett, 16, of Erdington, England, helped raise money for charity by taking part in a 25-mile walk around Birmingham. “The most exciting thing was seeing places I’ve never noticed before,” says Mark. “Walking gives you time to look properly.”
Mark recently won a medal in a church-sponsored regional swimming gala, and he enjoys seminary.
Accepting the Challenge
Seminary students in the combined early-morning classes of the Gilmer First, Second, and Third wards, Gilmer Texas Stake, accepted the challenge to think, speak, dress, and act like a missionary every day for a week.
The challenge was issued by the full-time missionaries. And the students were challenged to mark and place a Book of Mormon with one of their friends during the week. Commitment sheets were distributed and signed. At first, some of the students were hesitant to commit themselves for fear of the reaction of nonmember friends. Instead, their friends ended up encouraging them.
One student reported about the experience, “I felt at first that I would be embarrassed, but after I started, I found I really didn’t mind.”
Another student, an athlete who at first was concerned about his image at school, wrote, “I first thought this was nonsense, but listening to the missionaries changed my mind. I wanted to aid them in the work of the Lord.”
One of the seminary instructors said, “For the first time, many of them realized the influence they can exert on their friends. It did them good to see they can be positive influences if they want to be.”
The project did not go unnoticed by school faculty. Other students began dressing up when the LDS youth did.
The feelings were best summarized by Samantha Bowers. She said, “The feeling of love and togetherness I have had for everyone this week has been so special. It is a feeling and experience I will never forget.”
Kam Bellamy of Long Beach, California, was awarded a plaque as best defense lawyer in a mock trial competition sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. The students prepare the prosecution and defense in a fictional case written to illustrate constitutional issues.
Kam is also a straight-A student and was selected as the outstanding vocalist in her school’s glee club. She represented her school at the Math Field Day competition and was recognized as the outstanding player in a youth soccer league.
Kam served as second counselor in her Beehive class in the Long Beach 11th Ward, Long Beach California East Stake.
Hiking the Bridge
The Summiteers of the Lansing Michigan Stake undertook a rather unusual hike. They chose to join with 50,000 other participants in the five-mile annual walk across the Mackinac Bridge.
Young women and their leaders and advisers camped for several days before the event. They attended church at a small branch where they were asked to help with the sacrament meeting program and Sunday School.
After breaking camp early on Monday morning, the girls were driven to the starting point to cross on foot the largest suspension bridge in the world. They joined the crowd of young and old, including families with babies in strollers and senior citizens in wheelchairs. They completed their five-mile walk in a little over an hour and a half and received their certificates.
The Summiteers enjoyed the adventure and the chance to get together for the event.
Ryan Lewis of Modesto, California, was one of eight students nationwide to receive the High School All-American Award. The program is sponsored by M&M/Mars Corporation in conjunction with the Amateur Athletic Union.
Ryan played varsity football and basketball and has managed to keep his grade point near the top.
He was chosen as the outstanding player on his basketball team each year of high school. And he received the Golden Helmet award as player of the year in football. In addition, he graduated as salutatorian of his class.
Ryan completed four years of seminary. He is a member of the Modesto Fourth Ward.
Vynessa Bateman of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, was selected as a delegate to the National 4-H Congress held in Chicago. At the Congress she was recognized for her accomplishments in the area of health. She plans to study biology in college.
As a member of the newly formed Plattsmouth Ward, she serves as first counselor in the presidency of her Laurel class and as early-morning seminary president.
Paul Eraldo Soares, a priest in the Buena Park First Ward, Fullerton California Stake, was one of four young people honored in the state of California with the Young California Merit Award for bravery and service.
Paul, an Eagle Scout and Police Explorer, was nominated to receive the award by the city of Fullerton for his outstanding community service. Included in the citation was a list of 40 service projects Paul had been involved in, including fingerprinting children, traffic control at community running events, working with Junior Olympics, supervising a handicapped Scout troop, and staffing police information booths in shopping malls.
With all this, Paul maintained excellent grades and belongs to the California Scholarship Federation.
Saving His Friend
Scott Miller, 14, of the San Leandro First Ward, San Leandro California Stake, was in the unique position to help a friend who was seriously hurt.
Scott watched as his best friend, Kevin Freund, fell into a stream from a rope swing and was knocked unconscious. Scott lifted his friend out of the stream, and after Kevin regained consciousness, Scott kept him talking to keep him from lapsing into unconsciousness again. Scott then carried him home where his mother called for medical help.
Leading the Singing
Bronwyn Blake, 14, of the Santa Clara Second Ward, Santa Clara Utah Stake, has a lot of responsibility. She serves as the ward chorister.
“People are surprised to see her leading the congregational singing,” Bishop Chris “J” Goodwin said. “I’m really proud of her. She has proven to be very reliable. She’s always there.”
Sister Hunt, one of the ward organists, said, “I really enjoy accompanying for Bronwyn. She knows what she’s doing and is very easy to follow. It makes my job very enjoyable.”
Bronwyn is the youngest of ten children. She has enjoyed music since she was very young. In addition to conducting, she plays the violin. She started as the assistant ward chorister at age nine and since then has conducted at stake conference, firesides, and Young Women activities.