Monday, December 19, 2011

Red Coats and Race Cars

Story #1

When I was 15 I begged my parents to buy me a red wool coat. The one I wanted was expensive, really expensive, and so I used every ounce of my persuasive power to convince them that I had to have that coat or else my life would be over. My persistent pleas worked and on Christmas morning I found myself the owner of a beautiful red wool pea coat.

Pea coats had yet to come into high fashion in my High School and so when I wore it to school I was the only one who had one. That made me feel important and I loved it that I got lots of compliments about how classy and old fashioned it made me look.

I really loved my coat.

The next year at Christmas time I was sitting in Sunday School when my teacher told a story about President Heber J. Grant as a boy. Apparently when President Grant was young he needed a new coat badly but his family was too poor to afford one. His mother finally manged to get him a beautiful new coat but the first day he wore it he met a boy who didn't have any coat. Without hesitating Heber took of his new coat and gave it to the boy. When he got home he told the story to his mother and she imploring asked why he couldn't have given him his old coat instead of his new one. He didn't say anything in response but just looked back up at her, and then she said, "No Heber, you couldn't have done that, could you?" She knew her son's heart and knew that his love for others was greater than his love for himself.

After church that day as I stood in the foyer putting on my red coat I asked myself if I, like President Grant, would have given up my new, treasured coat when I had an old one sitting in my closet at home. To my dismay I realized that parting with my coat would be really, really hard for me. In fact, I probably wouldn't give it up. If faced with a similar situation as President Grant I saw myself running home to get my old coat and giving that one away instead. A person without any coat, I rationalized, would just be grateful for any coat and wouldn't care what color or style it was. There would be no need to give up my new coat when I had a perfectly good old coat at home.

Story #2

This week was full of birthday and Christmas parties and by Sunday evening we had a house full of Grinches. After listening to our children beg and whine unceasingly for even more presents and even more candy Jon and I realized that we weren't doing a good job about teaching our children that Christmas is about giving and not just receiving.

Actually, we were pretty much failing at it.

So yesterday I helped Asher and Rose go through their toys and pick out things that they would like to donate to the local women's shelter. I explained to them that there are children in our city who don't have any toys. I told them that since Heavenly Father has blessed us with so many toys it would make Him happy to see us share what He has given us. Asher got really excited about this and enthusiastically started rummaging through his toys.

He opened his box of toy cars and I was surprised when instead of picking out a handful of his least favorite cars he brought me over his three most coveted cars. These were the cars that he had played with nearly every single day for the last few months, the cars that he never let his sister play with, and the cars that when one got misplaced everyone had to stop what they were doing and search for it.

He brought them over to me and said, "I want to give the boy who doesn't have any toys my cars."

My first reaction was to say, "Oh, Ash not those cars. You have lots of cars, you don't have to give your favorites away" but I caught myself just in time. I swallowed my greed and instead asked him,

"Are you sure Asher? You know that you won't get them back if you give them away."

He looked at me with the sweetest simplest face and said, "Yeah, Mom but I have lots of toys." Then without missing a beat he broke out the wrapping paper and personally wrapped all three of his little cars up for the "boy who doesn't have any toys." Afterwards he also chose some other nice toys to donate and made sure they were all wrapped up and put in the bag with his cars.

As I watched him wrap up his favorite cars to give to a little boy he's never met my heart melted.

Already at age four he has already learned a lesson that I, as an adult, am still struggling to learn.

His innocent kindness reminded me that it is when we give those things that are dearest to our hearts that we really give a gift worth giving. And the times when those gifts are hard to give are the times when we understand the true meaning of "charity" and become a bit more like our Savior.

My red coat is still hanging in my closet.

I'd like to think that now if I ever found myself in the same sort of situation as President Grant that I'd give up my coat in a heart beat. Yet, even as I write this, a part of me hesitates. I know that deep down inside I am still attached to that red coat. Giving it up would be hard for me. Yet I hope that when it came down to it that I could give it up joyfully ( regardless if the other person appreciated it or not) knowing, like my son and President Grant did, that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

Do you have a "red coat"? Would it be hard for you to give up? Do you think you could do it?


  1. Love the story about Asher! A couple years after we got married we bought this huge armoire from ZCMI. I loved it. It was our 2nd piece/set of "real" furniture. Shortly after, we had a lesson on consecration and I thought, ccould I give this up? I looove it. After several days of contemplating, I decided I could, but I would be very sad. Funny thing is, now that flat screen tvs are all the rage (not that we have one) these big entertainment centers just aren't all that they once were, and I'd be fine giving it up. However, no one else really wants them either! We do use it for storing stuff that we can't fit anywhere else, so that is nice...

  2. Twice a year, my children go thorugh their belongings to donate to various places. They do this pretty enthusiastically, but they have never given up prized possessions. So impressed your son was able to give away so freely and you were able to hold your thoughts so he could have that opportunity!

    Deep down, I know I am a selfish person..I need to work on giving away the "red coats" in my life.

  3. I think this story of your son is a testament to what you ARE teaching your children.

    I think it's the natural inclination to whine and ask for more at that age. But when it came to testing their hearts, what they really knew to be true by what they had been taught, your son's heart took over and he knew just what he truly wanted to do.

    I believe you couldn't have taught your children these truths without carrying them deep in your own heart.

    It's natural to love your coat and your memories of it. But I think, like your children, if you were confronted with a situation that only the donation of your red coat could heal, you would pass it on - because that's where your good heart truly is.

    Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing.

  4. and here you thought you weren't teaching your kids about giving! Obviously you were, considering Asher's reaction. I think you're actions have taught your children more than you have realized. So to you I say Good Job Mama!!

  5. I can relate to everything you posted about. I would want to go back and get my used coat too. And this year as we went through the toys to give away my sons picked out some really nice ones... it took everything in me to let them do it!

  6. Growing up, we were the reciepants of people who gave up their "red coats." As an adult, I have never forgetton it, and I am so grateful. I would hope I would be able to do that.

  7. I think I first heard this story on my mission. When I heard it I thought, 'I don't think I could do that.' Children are such wonderful examples of charity. They have such strong desires to do the right thing. Sounds like you aren't failing at all.

  8. My husband's mother, a few days after Christmas, told her kids the same thing, that there are kids who didn't get toys for Christmas, and had her kids pick out toys that they wanted to give to the poor kids. My husband, very concerned for these kids who didn't get toys for Christmas, lovingly gave his favorite awesome expensive toy to his mother. She took all the toys to the local goodwill. He was so upset when he found out!!! Just don't lie to your kids - have someone or someplace in mind (like the local shelter for women and kids or etc.) or just be upfront and tell them that they have too many toys, so some of them need to go to the thrift store. He would have chosen other toys that he didn't like as much as he loved this one if he had known they were just going to the thrift store and not some other particular little boy.

  9. What great stories. I am having such a hard time being in the giving spirit. I have had too many experiences lately of people who are abusing assistance and it hurts. I need to take a step back and realize that it's not my place to judge, it's my place to give and whether people use of misuse the generosity of others that's not my problem. Thanks for the reminder.
    My sister's ornament this year was a red coat;

  10. Anah, don't worry I took the toys over to the shelter this afternoon and they were so grateful for them. I also told them about Asher's special cars and they were really touched. The social worker said she knew just the little boy to give them to. It was really sweet and actually that has been the best part of my christmas so far!

  11. do you know about these blogs?

    curious about your opinion and such?

  12. I don't know how I missed this post last year, Heather, but I'm so glad you linked to it today. So beautiful and breathlessly touching. ♥