The Twelfth Day

“The Twelfth Day,” New Era, Dec. 1993, 9

The Twelfth Day

We wanted to keep our identities secret, but the Spirit was telling me to do just the opposite.

It was December first, Christmas was coming, and I felt I should do a service project to make the season complete. My mother had taught me through example that giving selflessly to others made Christmas more enjoyable. As I contemplated what to do, my ward Young Women president suggested that a friend and I do the “Twelve Days of Christmas” for someone.

During the next few days, Camie and I thought about who that person should be. Camie’s mind kept returning to an older man in poor health named Lee Wilde. His wife had died many years earlier, and he had been lonely for a long time. He stayed inside the house mostly, except for the one trip he took each morning to feed his cows in a nearby pasture. Neither Camie nor I knew him, but we both had a strong feeling he should be the person.

That first day was exciting as we named ourselves the Secret Elves and carefully planned both our notes and gifts. Each day we delivered a different gift to Mr. Wilde. As the days went by, we noticed he was catching on, which made it harder to leave the gift without getting caught.

The 12th day came quickly, and we hated to see our project end. As it turned out, it would be up to me to make the final delivery because Camie had gone snowmobiling. As my mother and I drove down the road looking for one last hiding place I had a strong feeling I should allow Mr. Wilde to visit with me. At first, I thought it would be more rewarding for the act to be anonymous. However, the feeling did not go away and continued to prod me to go in and visit.

My mother parked the car, and I told her about my feeling. At first, she counseled me to remain anonymous. But at last, she told me to follow the Spirit. As I reached Mr. Wilde’s doorstep, I was a little nervous. When he answered my knock, I handed him the gift and said, “This is your present for the 12th day.” At first he gave me a puzzled look, then suddenly broke into a smile and invited me in. I explained I was one of the Secret Elves who had hoped to make his Christmas a little brighter.

He told me he had been waiting for us every night and that we had made his Christmas a very happy one. On his table lay all 12 days’ gifts as well as a white sack of peanuts he had put together for us with a little note attached. I took the peanuts and thanked him. As we were returning home, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I told my mother what he had said. I also tried to convey the feelings of the Spirit that had touched me.

The next day was Christmas, and as our family gathered around the Christmas tree to open gifts, a knock came on the door. Standing on our porch was Camie and her mother, who came by to tell me Mr. Lee Wilde had passed away that morning. Although I was sad, I had a strong feeling we had made a difference in this man’s life, and that the experience gave us the best Christmas ever. I also learned the importance of following the Spirit and listening to the still, small voice.

Photography by Steve Bunderson