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Greatest Gifts

“What did you get for Christmas?” That might be the first question friends ask you when you see them on December 26. But this year as you look back on your holidays, wouldn’t it be nice to focus on what you did for others? To get you in the spirit, the New Era asked our readers to tell us about the best gifts they ever gave. We got responses from all over the world. Here are just a few.

Bearing Gifts

When I was a college freshman, I found myself flustered and frustrated as I tried to get through my first semester. It was very difficult to fit everything into my busy schedule, which included a full load of classes, a very time-consuming Church calling, and the everyday adjustments of living on my own for the first time. As December arrived, I became overwhelmed with everything. With the pressure of finals and a lack of time and money, I didn’t feel the Christmas spirit at all.

I went home a week before Christmas, wondering what to do for gifts. I had been assigned to buy a present for my younger sister Rachel and didn’t know what to get her, until my friend showed me a very plain little stuffed bear her mother had made for her and the touching poem she’d written to go along with it.

On Christmas Eve, I found myself working frantically to finish a bear. My mom came to my room, sat down with me, and helped me get it done for Christmas morning.

As Rachel tore the paper from the package and peered inside, a huge smile spread across her face. There were tears in everyone’s eyes as the family realized what a special gift it was. In its seams, and in the poem attached, was the real meaning of Christmas. There was love in that simple bear.

Lisa McKinstry Rexburg, Idaho

Two-way Present

We are serving in the Virginia Richmond Mission and have to admit the best gift we gave happened early in the season. We met a beautiful family, the Galies, late in October. They were taught the discussions and committed to baptism mid-November. The baptism date was set for December sixth. We were all thrilled.

We could not help but think what a wonderful gift from Heavenly Father we had brought to this family. And what a wonderful gift they had given to him in return—that of dedicating their lives to him.

It was such a joy to see their lives change. Their baptism was a powerful spiritual experience for them, their children, and the entire congregation. We know the message we take to people is a true gift of love and hope from Heavenly Father. We love the work we are engaged in.

—Sisters Criddle and Judd Virginia Richmond Mission

Book of Books

It was my first and only Christmas in the Illinois Chicago (Spanish-speaking) Mission, and I saw that one of our investigators was alone and would have no presents. His name was Tito Portillo. He’d been a Catholic missionary in Mexico, and he was really struggling with accepting the Book of Mormon. We decided to give him a triple combination as a gift.

As we entered his home on Christmas Eve, there was a terrible feeling of loneliness. He was having a hard time being in the United States since his family was in Mexico. But when we gave him the gift, his whole attitude changed. He smiled and we knew he was grateful.

After only a few weeks, he was able to quote scriptures from the Book of Mormon, just as he did from the Bible. He was eventually baptized, and is now serving as a stake missionary, sharing the Book of Mormon with others.

I’m so fortunate to have been there to see the change the Book of Mormon made in his life. What a great gift to each of us from the Lord.

Debra Maylin Eagle, Idaho

Working Hard for Her Money

It was the first Christmas I got to work. My friend and I cleaned gardens, scrubbed walls, and did all sorts of jobs all month. We ended up with $10 each, one week before Christmas.

Everybody had already bought their gifts, and I was debating whether to give my $10 away or not. But when Christmas day came, I gave the money I had worked so hard for to my mom. She cried because she knew what I’d been through to get it.

I felt so happy! I felt I had really done something good. I’ll never forget that Christmas, ever!

Vao Paongo, 13 Nuku‘alofa, Tonga

Two Years

The best gift I could give to Jesus Christ, to Heavenly Father, and to his children here upon the earth, was serving a mission. There is no greater satisfaction than what I got from taking two years of my life and giving myself completely to others.

I grew, I learned, I loved, and most of all I gave myself to Heavenly Father so I could be an instrument in his hands. I promise you that you will become successful and happy if you give to your brothers and sisters the greatest gifts—love and service.

—Elder Carlos Pineda Canada Toronto Mission

Family Forgets Itself

We moved to a new state and city four months before Christmas. There are ten in my family, five of us teenagers, and this was our first move. We were having a hard time adjusting.

My mother announced that we would be doing a family project of helping a nonmember family in our neighborhood. We didn’t know them very well, but the service project helped us take the focus away from our own lonely feelings.

After Christmas, the mother of that family of five told my mother that her husband was out of work and she was supporting the family on a part-time job. It turned out to be one of the best Christmases they’d ever had.

Adrienne Pippin, 15 Portland, Oregon

Home for the Holidays

During my sophomore year in high school, I worked many months before Christmas drawing a picture of the 100-year-old house where my dad was born in Escalante, Utah. When he opened the gift Christmas morning, he was totally surprised! It touched him so much both of us cried. It was wonderful!

Suzanne Anderson Mesa, Arizona

Life-saving Smile

I think the best gift I ever gave was a smile. My friend hadn’t smiled in so long that when she finally did, it made me happy. Later I found talking to her about her problems not only eased the pain in her heart and made her smile, but it helped stop her from taking her own life.

Wendy Scott, 14 Portsmouth, Virginia

“Light” Reading

In very beautiful paper, I wrapped a Bible; a copy of the Book of Mormon; the pamphlets “Why Families,” “What of the Mormons,” and “The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony”; plus a card showing where we have the local branches of our church here in Ibadan. I gave it as a Christmas present to the principal investigating officer in the general post office here.

I felt good giving this gift because this man was very kind and I felt he deserved to come to a knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can say that my Christmas gift affected not only him but his entire family because of the card his wife sent me which included his handwritten note saying, “Your wonderful Christmas gift has been received. I am appreciative of your very kind gesture. Thank you.”

Amuzie Nwachukwu Ibadan, Nigeria

Great Goodies

I love giving and making other people happy. I have a very cheerful, excited Christmas spirit. My family “supports” another family with gifts every year.

We also make lots of Christmas treats like fudge and toffee and take them to our friends’ houses, ring the doorbell, and run. It’s really fun, and you sure do get some exercise!

Luke Mann, 13 Roy, Utah

A Promise

When I was a freshman at BYU, I had very little money and it was hard to think of a present for my bed-ridden grandmother. She had always been so good to us grandchildren.

I decided my gift would be a promise. I would write her a letter every week during the coming year. I kept my promise and, although she was unable to answer all my letters, she wrote when she could and our relationship grew even stronger.

She told me often how she enjoyed her Christmas present. It also was a great joy to give.

Carol Lowry Magrath, Alberta, Canada