“From the Ward, with Love,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 66–67
I remember in early 1982 saying, “Gee, nothing exciting ever happens to us.” Things were going rather well for our family; we had no financial problems, and we felt secure and happy.
But things soon changed. In April, my husband, Chad, had to have surgery on an old knee injury. Shortly after his surgery, he was involved in a motorcycle accident in which he again injured his knee, as well as his back.
During this time, several other members of our family also suffered injuries. To make matters worse, my husband found out that his job was being terminated on November 13. On November 6 he broke his wrist and had to have another operation, so he didn’t get to work his final week.
The day after our bishop learned of our pending unemployment, my visiting teacher, Carol, stopped by to see what we needed. Right then, all I needed was a shoulder to cry on. She listened to me while months of pent-up emotions came out.
Because of Chad’s recent surgery, he was not eligible for unemployment benefits. We weren’t too worried about that; we had our food storage and felt we could survive. But Christmas was coming, and we were not looking forward to it. We didn’t know when Chad would be able to return to work, and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on gifts.
One evening Carol called to ask if we would come to her house for a family home evening on December 20. We accepted the invitation. Each time I saw her after that, I asked if we could bring anything for the program, but she assured me that it was all arranged.
On Sunday evening, December 19, she came to our house with invitations for everyone. They read:
Out of the 1,437 families in this area, yours has been selected as the winner in the fabulous ‘This Is Your Night Sweepstakes.’ Congratulations! You have won:
1. Dependable Limousine Service for the evening’s affairs
2. Dinner at VC’s and the Supper Club by candlelight
3. Delightful entertainment at Barney’s
4. Delivery back home in time for family prayer and scripture study
We live in a rural area of New Mexico where there isn’t any limousine service. We had never heard of VC’s, the Supper Club, or Barney’s. We could hardly wait until Monday night to see what Carol was planning.
The next evening at 5:30, a station wagon belonging to one of the families in our ward arrived, with a sign reading “Dependable Limousine Service” on the side. Inside were one of my husband’s seminary students and my visiting teacher’s son. Dressed as chauffeurs, with suits, hats, and gloves, they came to our door and asked for the “Richardson Party.”
We got into the car and were driven to Carol’s house, the “Supper Club.” Here the children got out and were treated to a spaghetti dinner by candlelight. Chad and I were driven to “VC’s,” Vi and Charles Maxwell’s house. By my plate was a lovely corsage Vi had made of Christmas flowers. We ate a steak dinner they had prepared, feeling like royalty all the while.
As soon as we finished our dinner, the “chauffeurs” appeared at the door. They had already picked up the children. Our next stop was “Barney’s,” which turned out to be the home of Tom Murray, our home teacher. (Barney is the Murrays’ dog.) At the Murrays’ we were given our choice of five video movies to watch. Hot popcorn was waiting—just like at the movies.
Chad and I were so grateful. We couldn’t believe how much these people had prepared for this night while keeping it all a secret from us! After the movie we had refreshments of marshmallow treats and root beer. We were then driven home in the “limousine.”
My sister and her family were scheduled to arrive from Texas sometime that night to spend the Christmas holidays with us. They were already there when we arrived at home.
On the table in the dining room was a huge box of supplies for Christmas baking—including flour, sugar, chocolate chips, and milk. I asked my sister if she had brought it. She said, “No, we found it by your door and brought it in.”
Then the doorbell rang. It was another family in our ward, loaded with gifts and candy—a tied quilt for Chad and me, and two gifts for each of the children. The joy on my children’s faces was so touching; it made me cry.
My sister, who is not a member of the Church, could not believe all that was taking place. She said, “This is unheard-of where I live. No one does anything like this in our church.”
When I called Carol on the telephone to thank her for all the planning she had done to make the evening one we would never forget, she wouldn’t tell me who gave all the food and gifts. It was “just friends who wanted to help and be a part of your Christmas,” she said.
The giving did not stop. Throughout the Christmas holidays, others came by with special gifts for our family. Truly, this was love unfeigned—the kind of love that Christmas is all about.