Red Vending Machines: My Experience with “Light the World”
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Red Vending Machines: My Experience with “Light the World”

I didn’t know how to help the young women in my ward feel like they belonged. Service was the answer.

The author lives in Utah, USA.

2015 Temple Square Christmas

In December 2017, I was serving as the Young Women president in my small ward in Utah, USA, and feeling completely overwhelmed. Many of the girls I met with each week were being raised by single parents, and some were facing serious health issues—not to mention bullying at school and struggles with their own testimonies. I was discouraged that most of the girls weren’t coming to church and hadn’t been to weekly activities in a while.

As I talked with the other leaders about activities we could do in December, we were excited about taking the young women and young men to Temple Square. “Maybe we’ll get more girls to participate,” I thought, “and we can always bribe them with hot chocolate and doughnuts.”

The trip to Temple Square came before I knew it, and a record number of girls showed up to go with us. Once there, I looked at these rosy-cheeked girls and worried that they’d be frozen stiff within minutes. One of them had only brought a blanket to wrap up in, and temperatures were dropping quickly. But they were chatting excitedly, and that lifted my spirits.

Temple Square never disappoints, especially at Christmastime. When the other leaders and I stepped outside, it was freezing but absolutely stunning. As I walked around with another leader and two of the girls, I felt happy and at peace. There were people of all backgrounds, races, religions, and cultures at Temple Square that night, and all of them faced one issue or another. But they were all together walking under twinkling lights and looking at nativities and examining luminarias—and no one was pointing out their differences. It gave me a little more hope that we could unite the girls in our ward and help them realize that their unique traits made us stronger.

Soon we arrived at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, just in time to check out the brand-new Light the World charity vending machines. A huge line had formed in front of them already, so we headed to the back of the line to wait for our chance to give. The young women had heard that they could buy a goat for someone in need, and that was the biggest draw.

As we drew nearer and nearer, the conversations grew louder and louder. People ahead of us were buying water bottles, granola bars, oatmeal, rice, and more as donations for the Utah Food Bank. Another vending machine allowed you to buy shoes, eyeglasses, backpacks, radios, medicine, and emergency supplies for people in need.

When I finally reached the front of the line, I was humbled to see that I could buy two chickens to donate, along with the aforementioned goat. There was even an option to buy an eye exam for someone who needed it. My favorite part, though, was the free cards with scriptures on them and ideas for ways to serve people. The girls each took one and were excited to put their ideas into action later.

On the way home from Temple Square (after the doughnuts and hot chocolate, of course), I was so grateful for the visual Light the World reminder. I’d been trying to do the activities listed on the Light the World calendar with my family, but the bright-red charity vending machines were an instant wake-up call about ways to serve others. They also reminded me about simple ways to serve the young women in my ward and to teach them about service.

I continue to be so grateful for that trip to Temple Square and the Church’s Light the World campaign, and I’m excited for the upcoming Christmas season. I’ve realized that there are many opportunities to help others—even if there aren’t any vending machines around. Whether it’s shoveling a driveway (regardless of if your neighbor is capable of doing it his or herself) or brightening someone’s day with a simple card, service is such an easy way to draw closer to Christ during the Christmas season and become more like Him.

Lindsay Wilcox has more than 10 years of professional writing experience and currently creates hospital patient education for children and their families. She loves to sing and is working on an album of lullabies for her four-year-old twins.