The young man and Elder Judd have just loaded their zone’s Christmas packages in the trunk of their Corolla and bid the AP’s a Merry Christmas. The young man’s pager buzzes—Elders Kailiponi and Matsuzaka, 911. They drive to a Circle K and stop at a pay phone.
“This is Elder Laws.”
“Hey, it’s Elder Kailiponi. We were just at Cyril and Shauna’s house for the sixth discussion.”
“Are they getting cold feet for Sunday?”
“No, no concerns at all. But dude, they’re not gonna have Christmas.”
“What do you mean?”
“They got nothing. No tree, no presents, nothing. Sean and William … they’re getting nothing tomorrow.”
“It’s 4 pm Christmas Eve. No way we can get member help.”
“Yeah, that’s why we called you.”
The young man closes his eyes and whispers a prayer. “Ok, listen. There’s a Walmart on our way to you all. Elder Judd and I will hit that and get whatever we can for presents. There’s a Christmas tree lot in the Glendale Community College lot next to the Institute. See if you can grab a tree there. We’ll meet you there and go over together with whatever we have.”
“You got enough money for that, Elder Laws?”
“If I have to use my parents’ credit card, I will. We can’t have their little boys not have Christmas. You?”
“We don’t have a lot of cash.”
“Tell the lot owner the situation. See if he’ll cut the price.”
“Good idea. See you in a bit.”
When they meet at the Christmas tree lot, he and Elder Judd have some Lego kits, a couple of trucks, a pair of shoes for each kid, a hand bag for Shauna, and a belt and hat for Cyril.
Elder Kailiponi points to a ragged tree, four feet tall with gaps in it and needles falling. “That’s all they got.”
Around them, men are taking down the temporary fencing of the lot. “How much?”
“It’s like $20.”
“Hold on.” The young man finds the guy who is taking down the booth where payments are made. “Hey, we’re trying to get a tree for a family not having Christmas. We want that little scrawny one over there. I think it’s $20, and we got about $7 between us.”
The guy rubs tired eyes. “Just take it, man. That tree ain’t worth $0.07, much less $7.”
They knock the apartment door just after 7 pm. Shauna starts to cry as soon as she sees them crowded into the doorway with the tree and gifts. The boys come running and hug their legs. Cyril lumbers into the front room from their bedroom.
“Ah, man, y’all the best,” he says.
“The tree is small and kind of weak. We didn’t have time to wrap anything. And I don’t know if the hand bag was the best, Shauna. They were hustling us out of the store.”
She shakes her head and waves with her right hand. “We wouldn’t have nothin without y’all. God bless you.”
They sing a hymn and pray together. Then the missionaries leave for their apartments.
They are scheduled to be baptized that Sunday, and that happens for Shauna and 8-year-old Sean. William is too young. And Cyril? They don’t know it that night and won’t until his interview Saturday. As a teen, he was a drug dealer and gang member in South Central, and clearing up the homicide he committed at age 16 will require First Presidency approval for baptism. When the young man leaves Glendale a month later, Cyril, Shauna, and the boys are still attending church.