Cold Dawn

    “Cold Dawn,” New Era, Mar. 1988, 9

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    Cold Dawn

    We didn’t think he’d show up. But he’d been waiting in the cold since 3:30 A.M.

    “That’s about it for announcements and assignments. Oh, but I would like to see Greg and Tom Glenn after class, if you boys wouldn’t mind.”

    “Uh oh,” I thought to myself as I poked my brother in the side and let out a nervous laugh. Trouble was waiting for us, for sure. I suddenly became very pious, bowing my head, folding my arms, and hoping that the closing prayer would go on forever.

    We knew all too well what Brother Reed wanted to see us about. Tom and I hadn’t been on time to priesthood meeting for weeks. Sometimes we didn’t come at all, and sometimes we sneaked silently through the door and slipped into the back row at the very last minute, just in time to get our sacrament passing assignments and leave.

    Now, it wasn’t that we were sleeping in or fooling around at home. On the contrary. We were wide awake every morning at 4:30 to do the chores on the dairy farm where we lived. Dad had recently had a heart attack, so it was up to Tom and me to milk the cows and clean the place, and do all the other dairy work. We had the cows on a fixed schedule which easily got us to school during the week for 8:30 classes; but on Sundays, finishing everything, then showering and dressing for priesthood at 7:30 was rough. It was an awful lot of work, and we thought we were doing pretty well to make it to priesthood at all.

    Evidently, though, our priests quorum adviser didn’t think so. After everyone else filed out of the room, Brother Reed pulled a chair up close, so he was only about a foot or two away from us. Although he didn’t touch us, we could sure feel him, sitting so near.

    “Boys,” he said in a surprisingly gentle tone, “there’s really something missing from the quorum when you’re absent. What am I doing wrong? Are my lessons bad, or is it something I do personally?”

    Talk about throwing us a curve! We thought we were going to be chewed up and spit out in little pieces, but here was Brother Reed, thinking he was the reason we were late. We both started explaining simultaneously that it wasn’t his fault at all, but that we just had to take care of all the chores at the dairy.

    “Well, would it be of any use to you if I came over early on Sunday and helped with the work a little? It would be a privilege for me, and it might help you get to priesthood on time. What do you say? What time does the work start?” he asked, wearing the most sincere look I’d ever seen on a man’s face.

    Tom and I had the same thought at the same time. We couldn’t let him do that. First of all, 4:30 was far too early to drag anyone out of his bed and away from his family on a Sunday morning. Second, we didn’t want him to have to suffer the subfreezing weather. And third, there wasn’t that much he could do anyway. We were not about to give him any of the grubby work.

    So when he asked us when we started, we pushed the clock back an hour and told him 3:30 A.M., thinking no one in his right mind would get up that early, no matter how helpful he felt. We thanked him for his generous offer, shook his hand, and assured him that we would try to make more of an effort to be at our meetings on time in the future.

    We didn’t think about it much for the rest of the week, until Sunday when I groggily crawled out of bed at about 4:15 in the painfully cold morning. I looked out the window and was shocked to see Brother Reed’s ancient wreck of a Rambler silently parked in the driveway. I threw my clothes on, raced outside, and tapped on his car window.

    “Good morning,” he said cheerily as he rolled down the window. His words formed small icy clouds in the air between us. He reached out to shake my hand, and I noticed his grasp was one of the coldest I’d ever felt. I could have kicked myself. It was obvious he’d been waiting in the driveway for some time—probably since 3:30. And his financial state was such that he didn’t have enough money to run the car’s motor—and heater—while he waited.

    “Come on inside while Tom gets dressed,” I said as I led him to the house. Then I raced upstairs to hurry Tom into some kind of working condition.

    In a few minutes, the three of us were trudging through the snow to the barn. The one thing we hadn’t exaggerated about was the amount of work there was to do, and Brother Reed pitched in the best he could.

    At one point in the milking process, though, Brother Reed paused for a second and rather timidly asked, “Do you suppose I could have just a little sip of that milk? I’ve almost forgotten what fresh milk tastes like, we’ve been using the powdered kind for so long.”

    Our hearts went out to our quorum adviser. It seemed he sacrificed for everyone. Not only did we give him a drink, but we packaged several gallons for him to take home to his family. It was the least we could do for him.

    Well, maybe not the least. The hour for class to begin was drawing nearer and nearer, and the work still wasn’t finished. Finally Brother Reed told us he would have to go home and get ready for church. “Now I understand why it’s so hard for you boys to get to class on time,” he told us as he stood up and wiped the sweat away from his forehead. “I’ll try to be a little more understanding in the future.”

    You should have seen the look on his face when he arrived at church to find Tom and me already seated there, clean, with scriptures in hand. We had decided that if he cared enough to go that excruciatingly cold extra mile to help us, we could work a little faster and help him. I can’t honestly say that we were both on time for every meeting from then on, but we did always see that at least one of us was there every Sunday.

    And we found that Brother Reed’s lessons were actually quite good. But none of them ever matched the lesson he taught us about service and love before priesthood meeting on that cold winter morning.

    Illustrated by Larry Winborg