Feliz Navidad

    “Feliz Navidad,” New Era, Dec. 1996, 38

    Feliz Navidad

    We gave him food for a few days, but he taught us a lesson for a lifetime.

    I don’t think I had ever even seen a homeless person until I moved to Puerto Rico with my family before my junior year of high school. Then the day after Christmas, the youth and leaders of my ward gathered at the church building to put together boxes of food to distribute to the homeless people who live on the streets of Old San Juan.

    I had been to Old San Juan several times, but there weren’t any homeless people out during the day, or else I just hadn’t noticed them. When we arrived in the city, each of us set out with one box and the hope we would find someone who needed what we had to offer.

    To my surprise, it wasn’t difficult. The first man we saw was selling little bags of tostones that his wife had made. When we asked him if he could use the food we had, he smiled and took it, thanking us until we were too far away to hear him. Before we left, he handed us a bag of his snacks to show his appreciation.

    After giving away four of our boxes, we had only one box left. We got in the car and decided we would keep our eyes out for someone. It was getting late, and we needed to get back to the wardhouse.

    As we were driving, one of the girls in the car told the driver to stop. “Do you see that guy over there?” she asked.

    “Yeah, but he doesn’t look homeless.”

    “I know, but I have seen him three times tonight, and he’s just been walking around.”

    With that, she jumped out of the car and yelled, “Necesita comida?” or “Do you need food?”

    The sweetest, most sincere smile I have ever seen came to his face as she handed him the box, covered with Christmas wrapping and filled with food.

    A tear fell down his cheek as he said, “Feliz Navidad!” We could tell by his “Merry Christmas” greeting that one box filled with crackers, apples, and juice made a difference in his life.

    That experience made me realize why in the Book of Mormon King Benjamin counseled us to give freely, whether or not we feel that the person receiving is worthy of it. The man we gave our box to certainly looked capable of holding a job. But it is not our place to judge who can use our help.

    For us to judge people by their economic situation or appearance is not right. Our Heavenly Father wants us to follow his Son’s example and serve everyone who needs our help. It isn’t always easy to give freely without being judgmental, but it is necessary.

    President Howard W. Hunter taught that we need to put more emphasis on being Christlike. Jesus Christ was a great example of serving all kinds of people without condemning. He reaches out to us and urges us to help our brothers and sisters along the way. If giving a little of our food can help a brother or a sister, we need to do so as we try to follow our elder brother’s supreme example.

    Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw