“Rain, a Bedspread, and a Birthday,” Ensign, Apr. 1975, 32–34
It was raining a cold, miserable, rain. My 14-year-old daughter, Holly, had a dental appointment in a town eight miles away.
“Let’s get going, Holly,” I prodded, my voice edged with impatience. “I’ve got to get back home.” I had many things to do.
The wait at the dentist was longer than usual, and it was noon when Holly was through. We were both hungry, so we stopped for a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant. Then we were homeward bound.
Suddenly there loomed the figure of an elderly man standing forlornly at the side of the road. He wore an old watersoaked felt hat and was leaning on a stick with one hand, while in the crook of his left arm he carried a soggy bag of groceries, with loaves of bread poking limply out at the top. He was hunched forward, trying valiantly to protect the groceries and cross the wide highway, now filled with flooding water and heavy traffic.
At that moment the Holy Spirit seemed to fill my heart with warmth and tenderness, and it was as though the still small voice within said, pick up my son and take him home.
My first impulse was to argue and say, “I never pick up strangers, and I’m afraid.” But the impression came again, so I pulled over to the curb and stopped the car. I rolled down the window and felt the wind and rain on my face as I said, “Sir, do you have far to go?”
He replied, “I just need to get across this highway. I live only a few blocks down on the other side.”
I smiled and said, “Quick, get in,” and gratefully he did. By this time the traffic was backing up, and horns were honking. I sat there momentarily helpless, wondering how I would ever get over into the right lane of the highway to take him in the other direction. Miraculously, several cars stopped and motioned for me to cross in front of them. As we turned off the highway toward his home, he said, “Oh bless you, bless you. How kind! My wife broke her hip last year, and I was about to bring her home several weeks ago when she slipped and broke the other hip. Now we have just moved into this house out here, and I am the chief cook and bottle washer.”
As he was leaving the car he turned and said softly, almost bashfully, “We would love to have you come and see us. We enjoy company.”
I realized in a rush of compassion that they were lonely, and he wanted another human contact, someone to cheer his bedridden wife. Suddenly the warmth of the Holy Spirit returned, and I came in tune with a special force I had never known as I began to receive impressions about this couple. No words can describe the feelings I felt as the Holy Spirit filled me and prompted me with thoughts of what I must do. Silently we arrived in our town and I drove to the grocery store and purchased a few items. When we arrived home, I said, “Holly, would you kneel in prayer with me?” She nodded, and without hesitation we dropped to our knees and prayed to the Lord for guidance in this strange task, because I didn’t want to make a mistake. I have filled Christmas baskets and helped needy families before, but the items I selected for this couple were things you wouldn’t ordinarily take to people you didn’t know. For instance, there was a bedspread, a bouquet of flowers, a light bulb and a smaller night light, a chest cold remedy, cough medicine, a plastic wash basin, a water container, magazines, and one week’s groceries, very carefully selected—there were some meat items, but mostly the groceries were very specific items from my own cupboards.
When I came walking down the hall with a vivid, wine-colored bedspread Holly was incredulous. “A bedspread! Mother, you’ve got to be kidding.” But I felt impressed to get it, and we took it along. Satisfied that we had gathered everything we needed, we again knelt and asked the Lord to see us safely back to the right house and to guide us in this venture.
Outside the couple’s house, we hesitated for a moment, and I suggested to Holly that we leave the things in the car until we looked the situation over; I felt uncertain and scared. I knocked on the door, and the sweetest voice I have ever heard answered, “Who is there, please?”
I said, “Don’t be frightened. I am the woman who gave your husband a lift a while ago.”
She asked us to come in, and we walked through into her bedroom. There in bed lay a sweet lady, her face etched with lines of suffering, and I realized she was no stranger to pain. I smiled and explained our visit. “After we brought your husband home, I felt strongly impressed to shop for some things you must need,” I told her. She seemed to understand; so I continued, “I felt very specifically that you needed a bedspread; in fact, it was first on my list.” Holly brought in the things from the car, and when I took the bedspread to her, her eyes opened wide with joy and anticipation.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, “I am so tired of laying here without a bright bedspread, and I have prayed and prayed for one.” Holly brought in the flowers, and the dear soul covered her face with her hands, peeking out between her fingers as we presented each item. Her husband, who had been outside, came in, and the next half hour was like giving children a surprise Christmas. We watched with delight as he picked up the night light and said, “Oh, this is for me! Now I can see to get to the bathroom at night.”
“But, honey, I need a light, too,” she said. “I can’t even read.”
“Oh, yes, you can,” I nearly exploded. And I showed her the light bulb and the magazines.
Later they explained that in moving, their social security checks had been lost in the mail, and that they needed one week’s help until new ones arrived. The wife explained that she had felt a cold coming on, and her husband had forgotten to get her the medicine she needed. She also commented that the coughing hurt her hips. It seemed that every item on our shopping list was not only needed but was the perfect choice for them.
Finally they asked if we belonged to a church. Holly and I smiled, delighted to think that we had our first chance to ask the golden questions. “Do you know anything about the Mormon church?” They didn’t. We told them that we were brand new converts, and explained how the gospel was restored. I told them I had been looking for this true gospel for 48 years, and how we were learning more about it every day. We asked if we might send the missionaries out to give them the gospel and share the Lord’s plan of salvation with them, and they said they would like that.
Before we left, the lady turned to her husband and, chiding gently, said, “You told them!” He answered quickly, “I did not.” Again she insisted, “You told them.” And again he replied emphatically, “I did not.” Puzzled, I asked, “Told us what?”
Then the tears came, as she reached up behind the bed and brought forth a rain-spattered card. Handing it to me she said brokenly, “Today is my birthday!”