“A Heart to Fill,” Ensign, Dec. 2001, 58
It was turning out to be another rushed and harried holiday season.
When I was younger, I had envisioned peaceful Christmases filled with twinkling lights and glistening snow, with me seated before a fireplace and surrounded by my dream family.
To my disappointment, however, as a young adult I still had not seen the fulfillment of that dream. Instead, my time and energy during Christmas were being spent on my work as a schoolteacher and on various holiday-related activities. As my involvement in these activities increased and my to-do list grew longer, I felt more and more overwhelmed.
In the middle of the chaos came a request from a friend for our young single adult group to sing at a local nursing home. It was to be a family home evening presentation for the elderly patients there. I must admit that I didn’t really want to go, but I halfheartedly consented anyway.
Monday evening came, and when I got to the nursing home I was relieved that the hour had arrived—the service project would soon be erased from my to-do list.
A group of patients in wheelchairs had been gathered together in a cold, sterile room. A woman with silver hair and a tremulous voice opened our family home evening with prayer. She petitioned our Heavenly Father and sincerely and humbly said, “We thank Thee for all of our many blessings.” Blessings? I was puzzled by the thought. How could she see her world of wheelchairs, bedpans, hospital food, lonely days and nights, dependency, crippled limbs, and faded youth as blessings? The woman finished the prayer, and my thoughts were filled with wonder at her expression of gratitude.
Our group stood and began to sing.
Slippered feet tapped on foot rests, gnarled fingers kept time, and smiles appeared at the sound of the familiar melodies. Their expressions mirrored ours as we sang of Christmas delights and heavenly gifts. Something warm and magical gradually seemed to fill the room.
I gazed into the ageless eyes of the onlookers and found myself floating in their warmth and wisdom. They too had been teachers or carolers in a choir—married, single, parents, or childless.
The final notes of the closing song drifted softly around the room: “Sleep in heavenly peace.” A benediction was offered. My spirit was subdued and quieted.
My view of Christmas and of life began to change that night. For one moment I could see that I didn’t need to worry so much about what I felt was lacking in my own life. I sensed that within the withered physical bodies of those to whom we had sung were spirits filled with happiness, gratitude, and God’s love. No matter the person’s age or station in life, a portion of that love and happiness was there, if only I had eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to fill—with gratitude.