“Josie’s Gift,” Friend, July 1993, 45
“But Father, everyone in Kirtland will have given something to help in building the temple except us!” Josie had thought these words many times, but she hadn’t actually said them aloud before.
“Except us! Josie, we’re helping. Both of us. Someone has to raise the crops, and that’s my job. Brother Joseph tells me over and over that it is just as important for me to cut grain as it is to cut rocks for the temple. And every tenth day I work on the temple. You’re helping too. I couldn’t work in the fields so long if you didn’t take care of the house for us.”
Josie turned her cheek for her father’s kiss, and after he had gone, she regretted her words. She hadn’t meant to complain. She knew how late her father stayed in the field to help raise food for those who were spending more and longer hours to finish the temple.
But as she did the breakfast dishes and cleaned the little house, the thought persisted. She did so want to feel that she had given something.
Both Sara and Mary had told her how they were saving all their extra egg money and giving it to the temple fund. I could do that, too, Josie thought, if we had any chickens. What eggs we use, we have to buy from Sister Parker, next door.
Eggs! She did have four to last for the week. Perhaps she could spare two for a cake. A cake was something the temple workers could use! The thought gave wings to her hands and feet as she hurried through her work. Soon she had the beds made, the wooden floor scrubbed, and the braided rugs shook and put back in place. She left her favorite task—shining the china pitcher—for last.
The pitcher was made of pure white china, and a picture of Fairway, their old home in England, was painted on it. Josie could scarcely remember the lovely old house, but she liked to pretend that she could. The pitcher had been her mother’s greatest treasure. Josie remembered how her mother had guarded it carefully all the way from New York to Ohio so that it wouldn’t get broken. Now it was Josie’s most prized possession.
At times her father teased her about the care she gave the pitcher. “I’m afraid that you’re going to wipe the picture right off,” he said, “with all that cleaning.”
“I must take care of it,” she told him. “Mother loved the pitcher, and I love it too.”
“But not too much, Josie,” her father had answered. “Sometimes we’re called upon to part with things, and it’s easier if we don’t get too attached to them.”
Josie looked at her father thoughtfully. “It’s about the only thing that is really mine,” she said, “except my clothes. I do wish I had something I could give to the temple builders. But they surely couldn’t use my clothes, and I don’t know how the pitcher would help, even if I did give it to them.”
Deep in her thoughts, Josie was never sure just how it happened, but suddenly the stool on which she stood to reach the pitcher from its place high on the shelf tipped crazily. As Josie grabbed for the wall to steady herself, she heard a crash. The pitcher lay before her on the cabin floor.
She stared through sudden tears at the broken pieces. Clambering down, she tried to fit the broken bits together, but they would not stay.
The side with the picture was quite whole. Josie gathered the other pieces, dropped them inside, and placed the pitcher carefully back upon the shelf, the broken part facing the wall. Occasionally wiping her tears away, she began fixing the fire so that the oven would be just right to bake her cake.
Afterward, Josie wasn’t sure whether Sister Parker had just happened to drop in, or whether she had smelled the cake baking. Her neighbor looked at it, golden brown, cooling on the table.
“Josie,” she said, “I don’t know whether you heard that a new family arrived last night. They have no food at all.” Sister Parker looked again at the cake. “I thought that perhaps you had something to add to what the rest of us are sending over to them.”
Josie, too, looked at the cake. Maybe in a week or two she could again spare eggs, sugar, and flour for another one for the temple workers. She looked up at Sister Parker and smiled. “Of course,” she said. “It’s lucky I made it. Take it with you. I know the children will enjoy it.”
With a longing still in her heart, Josie watched the cake go out the door with Sister Parker. The cake and the pitcher, both gone in such a short time! She glanced up at the shelf. The pitcher appeared to be whole—if you didn’t look too closely. Perhaps Father wouldn’t notice. She needed time to get up the courage to tell him.
On Sunday in meeting, when Brother Miner announced that “the workmen are in need of clothes—coats, shirts, socks, whatever you might be able to give,” she felt that she had at last found the answer to her temple gift. Socks! Why, of course! I can knit socks!
Starting the very next morning she began spending every spare moment with her knitting needles. When she had one pair of socks finished, she spread them out on the table, measuring them against each other, making sure that they were the same size.
She looked up as her father entered. He came at once to her side and picked up the socks. “New socks! Josie, these are just what I need! I’ve worn a hole in the heel of one I am wearing, and the other is getting pretty thin. I can wear these while you wash and darn the ones I have on.”
Josie just nodded. Her father was so pleased with the socks, she just couldn’t tell him that she had intended to take them to the temple site and present them to the man in charge. She had even planned what she would say: “I made them, and they are my gift to the temple. You know who needs them better than I do.”
She tried not to be disappointed. Hadn’t the prophet said that her father’s work was just as important as anyone’s?
But she did want to take a gift right down to the temple site, where the workmen were beginning work on the roof. The building would soon be completed, and she would never be able to say to the neighbors, to her own children, to herself, to anyone, “I gave this,” or “I gave that to the temple!”
After lunch, her father did not hurry off at once. He pushed back his plate and looked at his daughter. “Josie, I want to talk to you about something.”
Josie’s heart jumped. Had he noticed the pitcher, after all? Ashamed that she still had lacked the courage to tell him, Josie answered quietly, “Yes, Father?”
“As you know, this is my day to work at the temple. We’ve started to put the finishing coat on the outside walls. It’s a new sort of plaster, with bits of china mixed in it. The part we finished this morning glistens in the sunlight as though it were set with jewels. I know we haven’t many dishes, but could we spare something?”
Her eyes followed his to the pitcher on the shelf.
“We never use it, Josie. Could we spare the pitcher?”
Josie arose and placed the stool under the shelf. Reaching the pitcher, she brought it to the table and set it before him. “I broke it, Father,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “I’ve been wondering how to tell you. I didn’t mean to, but it slipped, and it’s all in pieces.”
“Don’t cry, honey.” He drew her close. “You have just saved the men part of the job of crushing it. You know, your mother would want it there on the temple walls, sparkling in the sun. And every time you look at them, you will see a happy reminder of her, our old home, and your own testimony of the importance of the temple.”