This is Chapter 2 from the book, "Others"
by Blaine M. and Brenton G. Yorgason by Bookcraft
(No longer in print)



Gifts. Whenever one person comes in contact with another, how-ever briefly, they each give the other a gift. It may be large or small, intentional or otherwise, but the gift is still there. You receive many of them daily, you give away many yourself at the same time. Have you considered what kinds of gifts you are in the habit of giving?

"In a testimony meeting I attended not long ago, at the, very end of the service, a girl arose and made her way to the front of the room where she stood for long moments in silence, her lips trembling and her eyes overflowing. At last, when she had her emotions under control, she related to the congregation the following experience: "Some three years previously, while her father was stationed with the military in Germany, he had made a thorough study of the principles of the gospel and at length had joined the Church. Within a year he was transferred back to the States, and his family settled in Maryland, where they immediately affiliated with one of the local wards.

"This young woman, in her teens, found that there were four other girls in the ward her age, and with great expectations she looked forward to a close association with them as they all grew in the knowledge of her so-recently reemphasized gospel. "Yet she was to discover, quickly and painfully, that the girls in her new ward had a totally different idea about things. They were a close group, their families were long-time residents, their fathers held important ward and stake positions, and they could see no need to disrupt their unity and established pattern of living by becoming friends with an 'army brat,' as they called her.

"At first the girls were subtle in their persecutions, snickering when she was brave enough to make a comment in class, ignoring her when she spoke to them, and turning as a group and walking away laughing whenever she approached. "For a time she tried to ignore their rudeness, assuming that it was because she was new in the ward. She felt that with a little time they would all become good friends. It seemed, though, that she was wrong. Time seemed merely to aggravate and intensify the problems.

"A strong girl, she was initially able to handle the situation emotionally, but after a period of weeks and months she began to wonder what was wrong with her and even to feel that she was the one who was at fault. "To eliminate the snickering and giggling when she participated in class, she stopped taking part. To keep the girls from pointedly ignoring her when she spoke to them, she quit speaking, at first to them and then almost altogether.

"At school it became the practice of the four girls to call out and jeer in derision whenever she appeared, and it wasn't long before she was slumping down and hiding her face simply so the girls wouldn't notice her. At home her mother worried about her poor posture, but the pattern was established and was not easily changed.

"For a year this ridicule and persecution continued, and it was so intense and so constant that it had a severe impact on her image of herself. If they thought of her as nothing, how could she be anything else? "Her parents, of course, did all in their power to correct the situation. They went to the parents of each of the girls and talked it over with them, and those parents agreed to help. Yet when they confronted their daughters the girls denied their guilt. And the situation remained unchanged.

"At length, realizing that their daughter was being destroyed emotionally, the girl's parents decided that they would send her west to live with her grandmother. She agreed, and soon the word was around that she was leaving. "On her last Sunday in the ward, following another rough experience in Sunday school, she went to sacrament meeting as usual. During the meeting she noticed that a counselor in the Relief Society presidency was having trouble with her baby, so she took the child and tended it out in the foyer, thus freeing the woman to listen to the service.

"As the meeting ended and people began filling up the foyer the four girls ran breathlessly up to her. They were all smiles and cheer and bubbly enthusiasm, and as she searched their radiant faces and listened to their expressions of sorrow that she was leaving she found it difficult to contain her emotions. "Was it possible? Could it be that after a whole year they were finally changing? She held the fussing baby and wondered aloud that they were suddenly interested in her. "The girls giggled and assured her that of course they were concerned. They felt badly about Sunday school and had all gone in together to purchase her a going-away present. That, if anything ever could, would prove their concern for her, and tell her how they really felt about her.

"She was so astounded that she stood mute while they handed her a gift, beautifully wrapped, and then scurried away. She was still standing silently, gazing in awe at the present, when the counselor came after her baby. "She too noticed the brightly wrapped gift and so stood excitedly near as the girl carefully untied the bows and unwrapped the paper. And as she unwrapped it she was struggling with her tears. It was incredibly wonderful that the girls had finally changed. She had waited so long and had tried so hard and had been rebuffed so many times, but it had finally worked out.

"At last she had the paper open, and as she gazed down into the box she could hold her tears back no longer, and they fell freely as she stood quietly and sobbed out her feelings. "The Relief Society counselor, silently wondering at the girl's burst of emotion, leaned over so that she might also observe, and there she saw, carefully placed in that beautifully wrapped package, the girl's gift from her friends, from her Latter-day Saint friends. "And she too felt the tears start in her own eyes, for inside the box the girl was holding was a can of dog food."

Now, quickly, lest we think the above is an isolated example, consider the following true experience: "I went to school in a small town here in Utah, and it was really hard because the girls were, well, mean. Now I don't really blame them, because that was kind of how they were raised. It is a very small town, and the Church just isn't important to those kids.

Their attitude was, Try everything once.

"But I wanted to be different; I just didn't believe like they did. My dad was my sixth grade teacher, and that made it really hard, both for him and for me, because he could see how they were always trying to make me do things I shouldn't.

"I had one girl friend who was always doing things wrong, and yet somehow I usually got the blame. So I didn't think too much of myself. Even though I was mostly innocent, I felt mostly guilty. "So in the eighth grade my parents sent me to another town to go to school, and I just loved it there. I lived with my aunt and later my grandparents. And I had a lot of friends, and I guess they helped me get back my self-esteem. But I hated going home. I mean, I loved my own family but no one else accepted me like I wanted to be. You know. I wanted to be part of the Church, I wanted to live the gospel, and they were always putting me down for it.

"Anyway, one of the teachers that year in my home town had all the kids write me letters as a Christmas present, and I guess the teacher didn't read the letters or something, because when I got them I remember how awful they were. I cried a lot, I know that. "Lots of them blamed my Dad for me being like I was, and they wanted me to deny everything I stood for and then I could come back and they would be my friends again. They told me that the Church wasn't that important, and that if I did anything that turned out to be wrong then, well, I could always repent later. "By this time most of the kids back home who had written me were smoking and drinking, a lot of the girls and guys had moral problems, and it was pretty bad. But their letters affected me for a long time, and I was nearly out of high school before I could see that they were really just being small people. I could finally see right through everything they tried to do to me, and so could everyone else around us. All but them."

Kindness or dog food or anti-Christian essays are all good and bad gifts given by Heavenly Father's children to each other. Which kind of gift do we give?

Two young men come to mind, two students who sat through different years in the same seminary classroom. The first, as a young boy, had been hit by an automobile. He recovered, but suffered enough brain damage to permanently impair his motor nerves. His thinking was if anything quicker than most others', but his speech was slurred and his bodily actions jerky.

One day in class, after his attempt to participate was met with a great deal of snickering and mockery, the instructor sent the young man out on an errand and then in a very literal way told the class what he thought of the way they had acted. Yet little changed, and eventually the young man graduated from school and was called on a mission. Nearly a year later a letter arrived at the seminary, addressed to his teacher. He opened it and read the briefest of notes:

"Dear Brother" :

"I'm so busy that I don't have time to write, but I did want to thank you for helping me to learn about our glorious gospel. Being a missionary is the greatest thing I have ever done. I love the Lord with all my heart."

Love,

P.S. I don't have time to write another letter, so would you please give this letter to Rocky and Adelle?

"Dear Rocky and Adelle:

"I just wanted to write you and thank you for being the only two friends I ever had in school. Someday I hope you will know how much your friendship has meant to me. May God bless both of you always.

"Love,"

Can you imagine that? Twelve years of school in an LDS community and only two friends? Only two of his peers had not, on a consistent basis, given him cans of dog food. And it should be added that, according to his mission president, he was the most successful missionary in the mission.

Now to the other young man, a slightly built fellow who said little and was not, well, socially adept. In fact, he had one or two habits that were most assuredly anti-social, or at least seemed calculated to drive any well-mannered person away. Yet in seminary one morning, when this boy was absent, a beautiful girl, one of the sweetest in the class, stood in devotional and challenged the whole class to overlook his offensive habits and go out of their way to treat him as a special person. The class enthusiastically followed her lead and example, and the balance of that year was a very special one for all involved.

Then, on the last day of school, as the students were standing and expressing their feelings, this boy stood up also. For a moment or two he struggled with his emotions, and then quickly he thanked the class for making him feel so good and well-liked during the year. And then, in a quiet voice, he made a statement that no one in that class will ever forget. He said, "In fact, it is because of you kids that I decided last night after my personal prayer that I want to be baptized."

Isn't that interesting? No one in the class, including the seminary teacher, had the foggiest idea that he wasn't a member. But you can bet that there were some thankful sighs that they had influenced him for good rather than otherwise. Because of the efforts of one girl and a willing class who cared enough to give the gift of friendship, that young man is now almost through with his own mission. By now you will no doubt have thought of gifts you have given, or perhaps gifts that you can give. Emerson said it well when he said, "Rings and Jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself."

Remember this very morning, when you either smiled or didn't smile at a particular person. Try it now, while you're sitting there. First of all, make the biggest frown you can possibly make, then, switch it over and smile the happiest smile you can spread across your face. Can you imagine the difference in your feelings from the frown to the smile? And if you feel that way, knowing that neither of them is real anyway, then think how someone else, a friend, a family member, or even Just a stranger, must feel when they see you either frowning or smiling in earnest. A friend of ours likes to walk down the street in Salt Lake City smiling for all he is worth. He tells us that his smile takes no longer than a minute to become real simply because of the amusing reactions of others, which go all the way from people turning away to many who smile back to some who even stop to chat, thinking they must know him from somewhere, if they could just remember where.

And what about kind words? Have you thought much about the value of that gift? Here's an experience of Blaine's:

In seminary a few years ago 1 noticed a student who seemed really down, and this discouragement persisted for several days. Finally, on this particular day, I left the classroom and found another teacher. "Tell me," 1 said, "something good about so-and-so." That teacher, a wise man, quickly understood and told me three or four very praiseworthy things about my student. 1 then walked back into class, waited a few moments, and suddenly noticed the student. "Hey, do you know that I heard some of the neatest things about you today."
"Huh?"
Repeat.

"Are you talking to me?"

"Sure I am. Isn't your name so-and-so?"

"Yeah."

"Then I'm talking to you."

"What'd ya hear?"

"Oh, I can't say, but it was all good. Very good, in fact."

"Who said it then?"

"I can't tell you, but I can tell you that it was an adult, and I can tell you, too, that he surely has a high opinion of you." "Come on, Brother Yorgason, tell me!" "Oh, no, but be proud, because I sure would be if someone said that about me."

Well, you can imagine the effect that conversation had on that kid that day. He left the room floating on a cloud, and since he didn't know who said what, he was nice to everyone for hours. In the years since then I have done that many times to adults as well as kids, and the effects have always been very remarkable. Another great gift is the gift of time, and for many it is the most difficult of all gifts to give. Have you time for your parents? Have you time for your children? Have you time to do your home teaching or visiting teaching? Do you take time to care for the lonely and helpless? The apostle James (James 1:27) tells us that this gift of time is pure and undefiled religion before God. There are gifts of the heart, such as kindness, joy, understanding, sympathy, tolerance, forgiveness. . . .Gifts of the spirit, which would include prayer, vision, beauty, aspiration, peace of heart, faith. . . . Gifts of the mind, such as ideas, dreams, purposes, ideals, plans, inventions, projects, music, prose and poetry. . . .

All such gifts ease the heart of the recipient and lighten the burden he has been called to bear. And they also gladden the giver, giving him, for just a moment at least, a glimpse into the heart of our Father in heaven, who "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.) In the Yorgason family folklore there is an interesting story about our great-grandfather, who had eight wives. It is said that about two days before he was to visit with one of his wives she would make a big pot of stew. Then for two days straight she would boil it down so that by the time he arrived everything in the pot would have "boiled down to pure nourishment." She seemed to feel that he needed all the strength he could get.

Let us liken this little tale to all the possible good gifts that we may give others. If we could put them all in a pot and boil them down, when we finished we would find nothing in the bottom of the pot but love. Love is what all other good gifts finally come to. The apostle Paul gave a great discourse on the subject of pure love, or charity, in which he said: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Cor. 13:4-7, 13.)

Can you tell what Paul has done here? In effect, he has analyzed love. He has broken it down into its basic components so that we might recognize more fully which qualities we need in our lives:

1. Patience: "Charity suffereth long."
2. Kindness: "And is kind."
3. Trust: "Love envieth not."
4. Humility: "Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up."
5. Courtesy: "Doth not behave itself unseemly."
6. Unselfishness: "Seeketh not her own."
7. Good Temper: "Is not easily provoked."
8. Guile lessness: "Thinketh no evil."
9. Sincerity: "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."

Go through these nine qualities in your mind. Aren't you impressed with how your life might change if you were to adopt each of them? For instance, if you had the quality of patience, can you imagine how relationships would improve just in your family? And how about the quality of courtesy? If we all showed perfect courtesy toward other people there would be no crime, there would be no immorality, there would be no hurt feelings. Wouldn't our world be fantastic if we just had these two qualities, let alone all nine of them, to give to others? In Matthew 25, Jesus depicts our final judgment with the image of a ruler sitting upon a throne dividing the sheep from the goats, placing the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

He tells those on his right hand to come with him to the kingdom prepared for them from before the foundation of the world, and beginning in verse 35 he explains the criteria by which they were chosen.

Boiled down to its final ingredients, the test is not "How have I believed?" but rather "How have I loved? How have I cared? What gifts have I given?" The final test of our religion, then, is not religiousness, but love. It is the giving of ourselves to others. What gifts will you give tomorrow?





 

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