One Shovelful of Coal
October 1979

“One Shovelful of Coal,” Ensign, Oct. 1979, 49–50

One Shovelful of Coal

World War II had been over for almost two years, but we were still on rations.

It was February 1947, one of the hardest winters anyone could remember. Our home town of Bradford, Yorkshire, England, was the coldest spot in the nation, and it had snowed off and on for six weeks.

By now the drifted snow was higher than our heads—that meant no cart could reach us to deliver our ration of coal. And we were running low.

There were six of us living together that winter—my husband and I, our two children, a young man who had been turned out of his own home when he joined the Church, and a woman whose daughter was serving a mission. We did our best to keep warm, but we were almost out of fuel and we only had electricity at certain hours during the day. (Most of our power stations had been badly bombed during the war.)

It was Saturday when my husband went down to the cellar and carefully sifted the coal from the dust. All that remained was one shovelful of coal and a few cans of coal dust.

At church the next day, we received a shopping bag full of wood. The elders had sawed the wood from old railroad ties and stored it in the basement of the church. With this wood and our little pile of coal, we had fuel enough for one more day.

That evening we knelt in prayer and asked the Lord to help us. As we prayed, our helplessness gave way to a sense of peace. When we went to bed, we felt content to leave the situation in the Lord’s hands.

On Monday morning I put some wood, a can of dust, and the remaining coal into the fireplace. Then I waited until afternoon to start the fire—I wanted the house to be as warm as possible when the children got home from school.

The fire lasted until nine or ten that night. We were amazed to discover that all six of us kept warm and comfortable from the one little fire through the entire evening. My husband added a can of dust and one log, but that was all.

The next morning I cleaned out the fireplace and began to lay paper and wood as I had the day before. Then I plucked up my courage and faith and went down to the cellar. Not knowing quite what to expect, I opened the door. There, in the same corner where it had been yesterday, was a stack of coal that looked just like the coal we had burned the night before. I had the strangest feeling—had an angel brought it? I had no answer for my question, but I reverently scooped up the coal and took it upstairs.

How grateful we were that night for our miraculous fire. Our prayers were prayers of appreciation and praise.

The next morning when I went down to the cellar I found another stack of coal in the same corner. It was just enough. This miracle occurred every day that week until Saturday. By that time my husband felt that the snow had melted enough so that he would finally be able to get us some coal.

He took the children’s sled, and as soon as he left I went down to the cellar. As soon as I saw the corner I knew that he would bring back some coal; there was no coal in the cellar.

Later that day my husband brought back two lovely hundredweight sacks of coal.

I still have no explanation for this incident. All I know is that it did happen and six of us witnessed it. And we know that God lives and answers prayers.

  • Marjorie A. McCormick, an eighty-two-year-old writer and mother of six, has recently moved to the Leavitt Ward, Cardston Alberta Stake.