“Finding the Christmas Spirit,” Ensign, Dec. 1993, 47–48
Time was running out. It was December 24, Christmas Eve, and I still hadn’t found that magical feeling, the spirit of Christmas. I had done the things I thought would bring it—attended my children’s school performance of Christmas carols, decorated our tree, baked, shopped, wrapped. Yet nothing seemed to spark the Christmas spirit within me. I had resigned myself to the fact that this just might not be a very good Christmas.
My husband, Steve, a firefighter, was on his routine 24-hour shift at the firehouse, which meant he would not be home for either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Our four children and I were eager to spend what time we could with him, so we all drove down to the station.
As we arrived, the firefighters had just returned from a first-aid call to a nearby motel, where they had rendered care to a young boy with a fever and other symptoms. My husband expressed to us his feelings of concern and his desire to do something more for the boy and his brother and their mother. They had fled an abusive, alcoholic situation and were now hundreds of miles from home, with one change of clothes each, very little money, and now an ill child on Christmas Eve.
Steve looked at me and at each of our children and asked, “What else can we do to help them? We picked up a small tree on the way back to the station that we want to decorate for them, but what more can we do this late?” It was 9:25 P.M.
Our children began a clamor of ideas. My daughter was sure a toy store somewhere was still open. My oldest son, then fifteen years old, offered a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to guide us to a place where we would find the gifts we needed. This filled the children with hope that we could find a toy store still open. I didn’t share their hope, largely because even if we did find a store open, I didn’t know how we would pay for anything we found.
I wanted to share, as much as my children did, but this Christmas was already our leanest ever. Our own children were receiving only two gifts each. Still, we drove eagerly around looking for anything open, planning to meet Steve and the other firefighters back at the motel room before the little family returned from the hospital, where they’d gone for medicine.
Every store we saw was closed. Then one of my sons said, “Hey, I know somewhere that’s open.”
“Yeah, and they’ve got presents already wrapped!” declared the other son. Wondering what they were talking about, I pulled the car to the side of the street, and in frustration I turned to the kids and asked, “Oh, yeah, just where is this great place?” Their answer was so enthusiastic and genuine that it instantly ignited within me the flame of the Christmas spirit. “We can go to our house,” they chimed together. “The presents are already wrapped and under the tree.”
I asked them each if they really wanted to do this, and their eager response was, “Yes! Yes! Now hurry!” Once we were home, I watched with wonder as each pulled name tags off of their presents and each picked certain ornaments from our tree. At first, I was surprised to see that the ornaments they picked were the ones they themselves had made over the years. Then I realized that they were giving of themselves, and these had special value.
Two of my boys came out of their bedroom with their baseball gloves, their “pride and joy” mitts. We loaded the presents, some tree lights, and candy and goodies that were our family’s stocking stuffers, and we were off to the motel. The manager let us into the austere little room, and we set right to work with the firefighters, who had also brought things.
We set the tree on the tabletop and adorned it with lights and the ornaments. Some of the firefighters hung candy bars and twenty-dollar bills on it with paper clips. Presents were in place under the tree, canned goods stacked in the corner, and clothes for the mother and children folded neatly on the nightstand. The room had been transformed.
On each of the bed pillows lay a somewhat used baseball glove from our boys, and I saw my fifteen-year-old place between the mitts one of his most prized possessions. It was his home run baseball. I doubted that the little boys receiving this prize could possibly know what a sacrifice this was or what a revered spot it had held in my son’s room for the past six months. But that moment I knew that in my son’s heart, the spirit of Christmas flamed brightly, lighting that little room even after we turned off all the lights except the diamond-like ones on the tree.
I had almost given up on finding that precious spirit of Christmas. But it was given to me by my dear husband who recognized a need when he saw it, my children who so eagerly responded, and my Savior, whose love for all mankind serves to remind me that I’ll never need to be without the Christmas spirit again. I realize as never before that the Christmas spirit comes to us as we give of ourselves to others.