In my early years of being a single parent, we had so many experiences that confirmed over and over to me that Heavenly Father was aware of my little family, that He loved us, and that somehow, we were going to make it. I held onto those days with all I had. Of course, I had just as many bad days as good days. There were days that discouraged me more than I ever thought possible. But as I held onto my testimony and my faith, I somehow believed that it would be all right.
In those first weeks, when I was trying to keep things going with all the many activities that my children were involved in, there were many friends and family that came to our aid. These angels on earth gave precious time in so many different ways, helping me clean my house, watching my children, and giving of their means to help me get back on my feet. It was astounding for me to see generosity in such a personal way. I will never be able to repay those who helped me at that crucial time. I have been continually humbled at the generosity of dear friends that have found opportunities to help me to this day.
As the Christmas holidays approached that year, we were blessed with many more miracles. I will never forget one evening, during the first weeks of December 1998, when there was a knock on the door. We opened it, but no one was there. There was, however, an envelope taped to the door with some money in it. I was overcome with gratitude. There were many times that season when we would come home in the evening, after attending some holiday function, to have another envelope taped to the door. Sometimes it was just a few dollars, other times it was much more than that. Each time we received a gift on our door, I would think of the selfless people who wanted to make our Christmas special. With each gift, we always knelt in prayer, giving thanks to Heavenly Father over and over. It was truly amazing.
We also were the recipients of the Twelve Days of Christmas, given to us from two different anonymous families. During those twelve days, we received beautiful gifts, ornaments, or treats every night. Each gift was unique but truly given from the heart. I felt as if these wonderful “elves” knew my little family intimately. Each time we received a gift, I felt of the love that was left on our doorstep. I still have many of those special gifts and marvel each year at the love that was wrapped up in each gift.
Then, one evening very close to Christmas, we came home to find a Christmas tree completely decorated with bows made out of crisp, brand new bills: one-dollar, five-dollar, ten-dollar, and twenty-dollar bills. My children stared in disbelief at what they were seeing. I imagined in my mind’s eye, a group of wonderful saints, gathering donations for a family in need, my little family, who had come upon some difficult times. My children still remember that experience, of being the recipients of so much love and giving during a time that was excruciatingly difficult, but was somehow made bearable through the love and kindness of so many people. I was still trying to get on my feet financially, preparing for the arrival of my fourth baby, and these gifts helped me pay a few bills, and also purchase some Christmas gifts for my beautiful children.
What a testimony of the love of the Savior, and the reason for the season! During those initial years, I wondered if I could accept the charity that was given to us, but I continually prayed with gratitude and pleaded with Heavenly Father to be able to someday pay it forward. My hope was that my little family could learn to give also, that we could learn to serve and brighten someone else’s day, just as so many had done for us. As my children have matured through the years, I have seen a desire grow in their hearts to give to others, to help those less fortunate than us.
In fact, just a few years ago during the Christmas season, we had a family home evening about giving, and finding occasions to serve, and I was amazed at the opportunities that presented themselves in each of our lives that very week, with wonderful people that needed our help. During that same week, Rebecca and Preston had several experiences in one single day, of being able to help make someone else’s day better, and to help several people in very simple ways. They were overjoyed to relate their experiences to me. My heart literally burst with joy to see the happiness in their countenances as they recounted how they felt being able to help someone in need.
I still marvel at the wonderful people in our lives that truly “went about doing good” during our times of extreme trial and difficulty. I think of these friends that took the time to remember my little family in so many small and simple ways. Though life has continued to bring us many challenges to this day, I pray that somehow we will still find a way to go “about doing good,” that we will truly pay it forward.