Everyday Heroes:

With Love, from Noah

by Lillian Woodland

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    How could a 13-year-old boy come up with Christmas gifts for more than 100 “brothers and sisters”?

    Noah Germaine was in a quandary. He had some serious convincing to do. At 13 years of age he couldn’t let his young years overshadow his determination.

    Christmas was approaching. Grandpa Max Germaine had worked as a volunteer for many years with the Navajo Indians on the reservation 195 miles north of his home in Mesa, Arizona. Noah had overheard Grandpa say that the kids in one of the Church branches there might not have a Christmas party or receive any gifts.

    “Grandpa, I can be responsible for the Christmas party,” Noah said. “There isn’t much time left, but I know I can do it.”

    Grandpa replied, “You don’t realize how difficult this job could be. There are over a hundred kids in the Indian Wells Branch. If gifts are given, somehow you must obtain a suitable one for each. Where would you get the money? You wouldn’t have an organization behind you. Who would help you?”

    “I know I can do this. I’ll gather support, and believe me, Grandpa, I won’t let you down,” Noah said.

    Fired with enthusiasm, Noah launched his hastily conceived plan. Soon many neighbors, service groups, and local merchants had been informed.

    Recruitment didn’t intimidate Noah. For instance, he strode into a local supermarket and approached the manager. “Would you help?” he began. “Today I need candy and nuts for more than 100 kids.”

    The manager replied, “Are you putting me on?”

    Noah said, “No sir, this is ‘for real.’”

    “What is your telephone number?” the manager asked as he disappeared into his office. When he returned he said, “Your mother tells me you are trying to put this Christmas experience together. So, Noah, since she agrees that all this is ‘for real,’ let’s go select the candy you need.”

    Toys, sports items, books, grooming articles—gifts of all possible varieties—began to accumulate in the Germaine home. Noah’s mom and dad and his sisters and younger brother were all involved. Noah organized a gift wrapping party the night before his trip to the reservation. Friends responded with eagerness. Although the atmosphere was lively, they worked steadily, wrapping until eleven o’clock that night.

    When Noah surveyed the scene, he tried not to show his dismay. Many of the gifts were still unwrapped. Noah and Grandpa Germaine were to leave at five o’clock in the morning for the difficult winter trip up the mountains to the reservation.

    Caught in an emergency, Noah turned to his other grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Hanna. They arrived minutes later and joined with the family in another nonstop wrapping session.

    “Done. We’re finally done, Noah,” his mother sighed.

    Noah was counting. “Not quite,” came his labored reply. “We’re three boys’ packages short.”

    Noah left the room and quickly returned with his prized marble collection. He filled the kitchen sink with sudsy water, washed, rinsed, dried and polished each marble. He then divided them into two containers, ready for wrapping.

    One gift short. What could he do? Without a word, he began unbuckling the strap of the sports watch which encircled his wrist.

    “Noah, are you sure?” he was I asked.

    “Sure? Yes. There will be another time for another watch. Today we’re giving a Christmas party,” Noah said. And he carefully wrapped the final package.

    After Noah returned from the reservation, he was asked, “Well, how did it go?”

    Noah answered, “It wasn’t easy at first. We were strangers. Our language and customs are different. I think, because we all wanted to be friends, we reached out more than usual. Before long we were sharing, teasing, and laughing. They were very pleased with the gifts we brought. They gave me a gift, too—pottery bowls, a ‘living’ part of themselves, a part of their heritage.”

    When asked if it was worth it, Noah answers, “It was the best Christmas I ever had! As I listened to them sing some of my favorite hymns in their native language, I realized that they love the same Father in Heaven I love; they know about the same Joseph Smith I know about. We really are brothers and sisters.”

    Photography by Welden Andersen

    September reunion with blond-haired Noah, his grandfather, and some of Noah’s new friends. Behind them, the hogan where the father of one of the children grew up.

    When he ran short of gifts, Noah contributed his own prized marble collection and sports watch. In gratitude, he received something equally personal—pottery bowls, prized symbol of the Navajo living heritage.