Signs of Hope


I wasn’t prepared for the feelings within me as I listened.

She was shy. I was outgoing. Why was she getting all the attention?

This question must have passed through my mind a million times every Sunday during my early teen years. Donna Gilliam was in my Beehive class, a quiet, pretty girl whose parents were deaf. Because of this she knew sign language perfectly. And all the adults thought that was so sweet. She would translate at Young Women functions, and the mothers would cry. She would translate at everything. And everyone, except me it seemed, was deeply moved.

That was a time in my life when I was selfish, wanting attention, wanting to be in the spotlight. But competing with Donna was impossible. In her shy way, she, and her family too, found a special place in our meetings and in the hearts of the ward members. Nevertheless, my jealousy continued.

A month after I turned 14, my mom was in a very serious car accident. Though she did not die, she suffered serious injuries. She had to stay in the hospital in traction for a month and a half. The accident happened in November, and it soon became clear that our mother would be spending Christmas in the hospital. Because it was important to include her in all the family activities we could, that meant we too would be spending Christmas in the hospital.

Others in my family looked forward to that Christmas as a growing experience. I viewed it as plain terrible.

I wasn’t much of a spiritual uplift to my family on Christmas Eve. I isolated myself in the corner of the hospital room and just sat there feeling terrible inside. We were all just looking at each other, about ready to open our presents, but somehow the usual anticipation and excitement of Christmas were absent.

That’s when Donna walked in.

“Hi, Sister Fee,” she said quietly to my mom as her parents came in behind her. “We just came by for a minute. We thought we might sing.”

We all looked up in surprise. Her parents were deaf! How could they sing? I put my presents to the side and lifted my head in interest. I wasn’t exactly happy that they were going to sing, considering my jealousy of Donna, but I listened anyway.

I wasn’t at all prepared for the feelings that burst from within me as I listened to their soft voices sing “Silent Night.” Their hands moved in simultaneous motions, telling of the Christ child and heavenly peace. Tears spilled from my eyes, though I tried to control them. I heard the soft crying of my mother from the hospital bed. Donna’s eyes were tear-filled too. It became all too clear to me that I had been unfair to her.

When the song ended, their hands rested at their sides. We all looked at each other, overcome with emotion. Then they left, as quietly as they had come. Still in the corner of the room, I pondered the new perspective I had gained. Why had I ever been jealous of her? She had a very special talent. She and her family had brought a special spirit into our Christmas, changing it from a gloomy one into a celebration of renewal and hope. The Spirit assured me that my mom would be okay. That Spirit also brought me a new realization that I had talents too.

Right there in that hospital room I then promised myself that I would work on my own talents and stop being jealous of others. With that goal in mind, I found peace within myself. The song repeated softly in my head, “Silent night, holy night.”

All was calm in my heart.

[photos] Photography by Steve Bunderson