I taught a lesson last Sunday. The assigned source for the discussion was a talk given by Pres. Henry B. Eyring entitled, “Help Them Aim High”. From the title of his talk you might be wondering how I jumped to gifts, I’ll ask for an indulgence as I review, what was for me, a great lesson; not because of anything I said but rather for where the class took the lesson.
The lesson started with the question. Can you share a story about gifts you have given or received that had meaning?
One class member shared a story about a seemingly trivial service rendered by him and his son for a young mother suffering from cancer and the unexpected positive impact it had on the mother.
Another shared a story from the 1970’s when he was living in the Seattle area. He drove a Pinto station wagon to work each day. One winter the thermostat in his Pinto failed with the result that the heater did not work and he thus had a long cold drive to and from work each day. For Christmas that year his teenage sons bought a new thermostat, replaced the broken one Christmas eve and wrapped the old one in crumpled paper with a note to their father, saying “For all you do, this thermostat’s for you!”
I then reminisced about last year’s Christmas. I’ve always enjoyed Christmas — giving is such a joy. I spend a significant amount of pondering what to give my wife and children. However, I often don’t “figure things out” till Christmas is close. Last year was memorable because of the happy circumstance that allowed me to help my wife and daughter give presents to each other that they both would have loved for themselves. Here’s what happened:
In November my wife excitedly called me and said she had found the perfect gift for our youngest daughter but wanted my opinion as to which one to buy. She sent me pictures, via phone, of two small paintings by Annie Henrie, one of my daughter’s favorite artists. They were reasonably priced, for originals, but she wanted my help in deciding between the two.
I liked both but felt the young girl praying with two angels hovering over her fit our daughter best. I asked if I could go to the store and see them in person before we bought one. What you should know is that my daughter works, as the art concierge, in the bookstore where these paintings were being sold.
A couple of hours later my daughter called me from the store and said she had a great gift idea for mom. She said that mom had been at the store and had been hovering over several paintings by Annie Henrie. My daughter sent me pictures of the three she felt mom really liked. Two of the three were the ones my had shown me. I told my daughter the same thing I had told my wife—that it was a great idea but I wanted to come see them before a final decision was made.
I dutifully went to the store and looked at the artwork with my daughter. There were a number of small paintings by Annie but the three she picked out were the ones I liked best. I bought all three, telling our daughter that I now had presents to cover mom for the next year — Christmas, Mother’s Day, and her birthday. When I arrived home I showed my wife the angel picture we had decided was best for our daughter. The other two paintings I hid in my office closet.
My daughter and her husband were with us Christmas morning. She was so excited for mom to open her present. Mom had the same feeling about our daughter. I, of course, was the most excited but couldn’t really show it. Mom opened her painting (girl with flowers) and was delighted. When our daughter opened hers’ she was all smiles, as evidenced by the photo. And me, their reactions made this one of my favorite Christmases.
Note, the third painting (a mother with her baby) was given to our oldest daughter, who has five children, for a Mother’s Day gift.
We learn from the scriptures (I Cor 7:7, I Cor 12:4-12, D&C 46:11-26) that God has given each of us gifts (talents, attributes, traits …). I asked the class to break into small groups and try and see if they could discover what gifts members of their group had.
I was pleasantly surprised by the almost instantaneous discussions that ensued. I could see that people were enjoying getting to know their class members better. I was even more pleasantly surprised when I asked someone to tell me about his “new best friend”. After the person I asked gave a very insightful response, other class members raised their hand to offer additional comments about other gifts and talents the friend had and how these were used to serve others. This same sequence occurred each time I asked someone to share what he had discovered about a person in his group.
Towards the end of this phase someone made the observation that within his group of five people that everyone had different talents that complimented each other. He pointed out that if they were to work together they would be unstoppable. I paused the class at this point and we read I Cor 12:4-12.
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
I did not want to end the lesson because of the great feeling that was in the room. Nonetheless we were running out of time and we needed wrap things up.
As I read President Eyring’s remarks I was drawn to his concluding challenge:
God knows our gifts. My challenge to you and to me is to pray to know the gifts we have been given, to know how to develop them, and to recognize the opportunities to serve others that God provides us. But most of all, I pray that you will be inspired to help others discover their special gifts from God to serve.
If like me, you love Christmas, consider the time we spend trying to find the perfect gift for those we love. Now, in comparison, think about the time we devote to helping others discover the gifts they’ve received from God. The question I’ve asked myself is, do I spend enough time on the latter. The answer is I could do more.
Additional questions I’ve asked myself are:
- Have I really spent time pondering the gifts of my children and worked to help them discover and develop them.
- How about my wife? Have I done the same? Am I doing it now?
- Neighbor’s and friends?
- Am I doing it for them as opposed to me?
Think about the joy we feel when our Christmas gifts are received and the recipients are delighted with them. There is more long-term joy to be found in helping others open their heavenly gifts. I know we can feel the spirit of Christmas the entire year and truly bless the lives of others if we will help those around us discover and develop the gifts they already have in their possession.