I Prayed the Hug Would Last Forever

by the Swensens
A few years back, my parents gave each of their children a copy of the story "The Christmas Jar" to read, along with a small jar, and asked that we all participate in a new family tradition beginning the next year. We would then combine all of our jars and give them to a family in need. So we began our jar tradition, and throughout the year we would drop coins and dollars into our Christmas jar. My siblings all did the same.

The next year, at our family Christmas party, each family brought the money they had collected throughout the year. Our individual contribution seemed meager, but all together we filled three jars and had a sum of several hundred dollars.

A family in our ward was struggling…the daughter of a lady I worked with. We decided her family would benefit from our jars, so most of us watched from a distance as my dad and nephew knocked on the door. Some puzzled children opened the door and I don’t think got much of an explanation before jars full of money were suddenly shoved through their door, followed by, "Merry Christmas!"

The next day at work, the mother of this young lady in our ward came to my office and asked if I knew of anyone in my neighborhood doing a Christmas Jars activity. I tried to keep my best poker face on and said, “I don’t know anything about it.” But I was too excited, and she saw right through me. She burst into tears, gave me a hug, and thanked me over and over. I knew from working with her that she personally had borne the financial burden of providing her daughter's family with any sort of a Christmas the previous few years. It warmed my heart to know our small contribution had brought so much joy to this loving mother and grandmother.

The next year progressed, and we again brought our Christmas Jars to my parents' house, eager for the opportunity to share. This time, my mother had been tipped off to a family in need by a friend of a friend of a friend. We didn’t know them or their circumstances. All we had was an address, a last name, some jars full of money, and a growing feeling of anticipation.

This year, I was elected to take the jars of money to the door with my daughter Hillary and two of my nephews. Everyone else watched from the cars. I rang the doorbell. The door opened, and the mother of the family answered and said hello. She asked what we needed. I informed her that our family had a Christmas gift we wanted to give them. My nephews started handing over the jars of money.

The mother stared at me in disbelief…total strangers handing over jars of money. It was at that moment I realized I hadn’t even confirmed that this was the right house by checking the last name. This might be awkward if I have to ask for them back. However, the expression on her face was all the confirmation I needed. She stared for another moment or two and then asked me, “Who do you know?” I explained that my mother knew someone, who heard from someone, who heard from someone else, and here we were.

I then asked her for her last name and confirmed we did, indeed, have the correct house. At that moment she burst into tears. She knelt down on the ground, grabbed Hillary and my two nephews, and gave them a great big bear hug. She thanked them over and over and said that we had no idea what our gift meant to their family this year. We wished them a merry Christmas and left. I wish my whole family had been able to be at the door with us, to see her expression and personally feel her gratitude.

In the car driving home I couldn’t help but take in the moment. Here was a woman who we had never met, giving three children she had never met a hug, but we were each prompted to do so because of the feeling and emotion that comes from the pure love of Christ. We would probably never see this woman again. We would not know how the money we gave was spent, the food or presents it might provide, but it didn’t matter. I hoped and prayed that the memory of the day, and the feeling of that hug, would remain with these three children forever, as a testimony to the power of charity and the pure love of Christ.

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