“The Crumpled Letter,” Ensign, Dec. 1997, 55–56
It was a cold, bone-chilling December day in 1988 in San Luis Obispo, California. Stricken with a rare neuromuscular disorder, I struggled with rigid muscles in my abdomen and legs. The cold aggravated my symptoms. Walking was painful and difficult, and celebrating Christmas in the manner I desired would be impossible.
After our children departed for the bus stop, I hobbled out to the mailbox to slip some letters under its sodden wooden top. A crumpled, damp envelope already protruded from under the lid. As I pulled it out to add to my stack of letters, I glanced at the address.
To my surprise, scrawled across the front was “To Santa, From Sarah.” Sarah was our nine-year-old daughter, a sensitive and loving child who cared deeply for those around her.
The thought occurred to me that this might be my chance to see what she really wanted for Christmas. I opened her envelope and read: “Dear Santa, I am nine years old and all I want is this. My mother has been very sick and has not been able to walk, and I am hoping you can get her better for Christmas. That’s all I want. Love, Sarah.”
Icy raindrops hit my face and blended with the tears on my cheeks. I thought my heart would break, for there was nothing I could do to give Sarah what she wanted for Christmas, and I regretted that her belief in a generous Santa would have to be shattered on Christmas morning.
As I prayed about what to do, I realized that I had never prayed to be made well. I had let hopelessness seep into my soul and despair replace my faith.
After a great deal of prayer, I composed a letter from Santa to be delivered to Sarah on Christmas morning along with her other gifts. In the letter I explained that Heavenly Father had reasons for why things happen as they do, and that if she would just believe in Heavenly Father and keep on praying and doing what she could, things would work out for the best.
Sarah learned that Christmas day in 1988 that Santa could not make her mother well but that Heavenly Father could one day, if it were for the best. Our daughter quietly transferred her belief in Santa to faith in a loving Heavenly Father.
During the following years, Sarah never ceased praying that I would be made well. After more than six years, a breakthrough in medical technology placed me soundly back on my feet and eliminated my need for either a cane or a wheelchair. Sarah knelt in prayer to express her deep gratitude to Heavenly Father.
Years ago as I opened Sarah’s letter to Santa on that rainy December day, I thought I was going to deepen her belief in a fun Christmas tradition. Instead, her simple, uneven script taught me to have childlike faith in a kind Heavenly Father, and that lesson turned out to be my most precious Christmas gift of all.