“Gustavo’s Smile,” Liahona, Dec. 1999, 10–11
On Christmas Day in 1993, the single adults of the Caracas Venezuela Stake visited an orphanage that housed some 40 children. We wanted to bring some happiness to God’s precious little ones. I will never forget the expression of one four-year-old boy named Gustavo.
As we arrived, the children enthusiastically greeted us with hugs, kisses, and other expressions of affection, which we happily returned. The hope and innocence in their eyes helped me better understand the Lord’s admonition to “become as little children” (Matt. 18:3).
Our activity began with a little party, at which we gave out treats and toys we had brought. When lunchtime came, each of us sat down next to a child to help serve the meal. Many were too excited about their toys to want to eat; others told us fantastic stories woven from their imaginations. Some were extremely quiet and just stared at us, but they laughed when we made funny faces at them.
I asked the workers how many occasions like this the children had already experienced. They told me the children were seldom visited; as a result, many of them were lonely and shy. Many were ready to be adopted, but the law has many requirements that delay the adoption process. Most of the orphans could not be adopted until legislation was passed in their favor.
When the children finished eating, Gustavo came up to me and began to play. I tried to talk to him, but he answered only in short phrases. At the end of our brief encounter, he gave me a hug and a big smile and said, “Thank you, Daddy.” A lump formed in my throat.
By midafternoon it was time for the children’s nap. We helped put them to bed, but they were too excited to sleep. When they realized we were preparing to leave, they began to cry, and it was hard to comfort them. There was nothing to say; we could only give them our love, expressed in hugs and kisses. Gradually, sleep began to overcome them.
And then, as we left, I again encountered Gustavo’s smile. He was still awake, and he said to me, “Come back soon, Daddy.”
I spent the rest of the day thinking about him and feeling sad that I couldn’t do more to help him. Shortly thereafter, I learned he had been adopted. I don’t know who adopted him, but I believe my prayers and the pure desires of his heart helped bring him this blessing.
I will probably never see Gustavo again, but his smile that Christmas Day taught me about the importance of giving love and being willing to receive it.