“Just a Few Stamps Short,” Ensign, Dec. 1998, 59
As the years pass and Christmas memories fade, one Christmas stands above the rest. The year was 1918. There was a terrible flu going around in Logan, Utah, and my father was stricken. As there were no antibiotics in those days, we waited for the change that would mean life or death.
Because of my father’s illness, Mother told us there would be no money for Christmas gifts that year. My brother and sisters and I secretly decided to do something special for our parents to show them how much they were loved. Oh, if only we could buy them special gifts! We decided we would each look for a job to earn money and then pool our savings. Henry, my older brother, found a job selling Christmas trees, chopping wood, and cleaning walks. Carmen did housework for others, and Luella, who was a fast knitter, made and sold her handiwork. I baby-sat for a mother down the street. Only Marie was too young to work. She just looked forward to Christmas.
The day before Christmas was a crisp, wintry day. A thick blanket of snow covered the streets, and the stores were full of shoppers. We all gathered in my sister’s bedroom and counted our money. We had just enough to buy Father a warm robe and Marie a doll buggy. But what about Mother? What could we get or do for her, and where would we get the extra money?
We needed Heavenly Father’s help, so as brother and sisters we knelt down and prayed with all the fervor we could muster. And then we remembered: there was an almost-full book of green stamps from Christensen’s Department Store, and the completed books could be redeemed for merchandise. We hurried downtown and found the robe for Father and the wicker buggy for Marie, which we purchased at Christensen’s store. We received only a few stamps for our purchases, however, so we still lacked enough to fill the book. Carmen was walking through the store when a woman near the counter dropped her stamps. Carmen bent over, picked them up, and handed them back to her.
“I don’t save these,” the woman said. “Would you like them?”
Would we? We were overjoyed! Now we could buy a gift for our mother. We found a small table for just one book of stamps, but it was too heavy to carry home. We asked the clerk if it could be delivered that night, but she told us the delivery truck had already left. We must have looked very sad because she offered to contact the driver and see if he would deliver the table after hours.
That night, for the first time in weeks, Father seemed better and even wanted to join us for the festivities. The temperature was below freezing outside, but we were blanketed with a warmth of love for each other. We made chains of popcorn, colored paper, and cranberries for our tree, and the spicy smell of baked cookies and pies filled the air. Friends and family dropped by, and we sang our favorite Christmas songs and shared our treats.
Mother gave us all small gifts of knitted mittens, hard candy, and stockings, but still her gift had not arrived. What if it did not come? Then there was a knock at the door and someone shouted “Merry Christmas!” The delivery man was therewith Mother’s table. We jumped up and down and cheered, and Mother had tears in her eyes.
That Christmas I learned that loving someone was more important than loving something. We felt the joy that comes from giving of ourselves, and that evening we knelt in prayer to thank Heavenly Father for His help and kind blessings.