I pressed a criss-cross design on the last ball of peanut butter cookie dough and placed it on the baking sheet. Another pan of cookies was ready for the oven. My girlfriend, Michelle, and I had eaten a dozen before carefully arranging a plate of the best-looking cookies. Ever since our Beehive lesson on giving service without being asked, Michelle and I had been motivated to give service to one of the widows in our ward. We chose Sister Andrews. She had been a widow for at least 20 years and had no children.
Michelle and I organized a plan. Once a month we would take something over to Sister Andrews. We didn’t let anyone know of our plans. After all we wanted to serve without being told. The cookies were our first gift. We jumped on our bikes, with me balancing the plate of cookies on the handlebars, and rode over to Sister Andrews’s tiny home.
When she answered the door, Sister Andrews was wearing a plain blue house dress with a crocheted collar. Proudly, I held out the plate.
“We brought you some peanut butter cookies,” I said.
“Oh, you girls are so sweet, but I can’t have any sugar on my diabetic diet. Why don’t you take these home and share them with your families.”
Surprised and a little confused, we stood wondering what to do next. There were plenty of cookies at home, and Michelle and I could not possibly eat one more ourselves. We left a little discouraged.
We tried to think of another idea. Flowers were a sure thing. All women love flowers, we thought. My mother’s rosebushes were in bloom. We picked red, yellow, and pink roses and placed them in a mason jar.
Again Michelle and I rode our bikes to Sister Andrews’s home. “We brought these for you,” Michelle said and held out the flowers.
“Thank you so much. They are beautiful. But I get hayfever, and I can’t have flowers inside the house,” was her reply. We visited with her for a few minutes and left.
Michelle and I were quite discouraged now. Flowers and treats were off the list. We decided Sister Andrews would like some fruit. We filled a bowl full of the prettiest ripe raspberries we could find. Pleased with our gift, we got on our bikes a third time and rode to Sister Andrews’s home.
“We brought you some fresh raspberries,” I said.
“My, they look delicious. I used to love eating raspberries when I was your age. I can’t eat them anymore. The seeds get caught under my dentures. Why don’t you girls eat them with your supper tonight,” she replied.
I couldn’t believe it. We had struck out. Finally, we told our parents of our failed attempts to offer service. They helped us learn a little more about Sister Andrews. She had a great talent for crocheting and loved to spend her time making items for her friends and neighbors such as baby afghans, hot pads, and slippers. She had a small income which limited how much she could crochet for others. Because of her poor circumstances, she hated to see things wasted. That’s why she turned down our gifts rather than just taking them and discarding them after we left.
Michelle and I pooled our baby-sitting money and went to the store and purchased skeins of yarn for Sister Andrews. This time our gift was perfect. She delightedly showed us some of the things she was working on. And we learned a valuable lesson about service. True service is not just giving what we choose to give, but giving what is really needed.