Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Unopened Gifts

For thirteen years I taught religious education classes to teenaged members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The classes are called “Seminary” and they are just one of many wonderful sources of strength for youth everywhere (check out this resource, for example: Youth ) In Seminary kids study, over the four-year period of high school, the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Each Christmas I tried to come up with some little token of love and appreciation for my kids for Christmas—something inexpensive but through which they could feel my love for them as a teacher, as well as the Savior’s love for them. They were teenagers, they were in a challenging part of life, and I wanted my love—as well as God’s love—to be a source of strength and encouragement for them.

One year I came across a great idea I used with my students. It was called “Ten Things I Love About ________________ “ (fill in the blank with the student’s name). I bought some cute Christmas stationery and sat down to list for each of my fifty-some students ten things I loved about them.

Happily, many kids I could have listed twenty or thirty characteristics for; and sadly, there were a few I really had to think and pray about in order to come up with ten genuine points of love. But I did it!

I rolled each paper up like a small scroll, sealed it with a golden “Do Not Open Until Christmas” seal and tied it with a festive ribbon, then put the gifts in each student’s cubby right before the holiday break.

Almost all the kids were excited and intrigued with the little gift that year and couldn’t wait to open them, but sadly, there was one student who never did take his gift with him or even open it there at the Seminary building.  Christmas passed, the school year ended and he walked out of the classroom for the last time, the scroll with my statements of love still sitting, unopened, in his cubby.

I have reflected on that fact with sadness. This young man had troubles: problems at home in his family; academic challenges at school; social deficiencies regarding his peers. If there was ever someone who needed to know that he was loved, it was this.  But he left the statements—the evidence--of love on the shelf.

From time to time over the years I think about that boy. I still feel sad for him. But I have come to recognize, to a degree, a bit of all of us in him.  

There is Someone who loves us intimately and perfectly. Think of that: He knows us intimately and perfectly—and still loves us! He has prepared evidences—statements, if you will—of that love, and placed them  all around us, within our reach, hoping that we will pick them up, open them up, and feel His love for us. Those gifts of love include priceless offerings such as the holy scriptures; living prophets; the stunning beauties of nature; strategically placed people in our lives; and most of all, the Perfect Gift of His Son.

Every time we turn to one of those sources of love, encouragement and strength,  I think our Heavenly Father is pleased. He wants us to feel His love.

Who, writing about Christmas, is starting to get excited

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