Jenny’s* husband lost his job today. She collapsed in my kitchen chair while we both cried and I offered lame assurances that, “He’ll find something else soon. I know he will.”

But no words can erase the stress of being jobless with four kids and a mortgage and Christmas only weeks away.

What can I do for her? How can I help her? Thankfully, since she’s my neighbor– quite a lot. I can be her friend.

But what about the hundreds of thousands that are hurting this year?

We were all horrified by the trampling death in NY on Black Friday. I believe the nation went onto collective mourning for Jdimytai Damour because it felt so wrong, so WRONG for anyone to lose their life over video games and big-screen TVs in this season where kindness should be at the top of every gift list.

I recall Paul’s counsel. “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” And though I buy the most fabulous gifts and though I wear myself out shopping and can’t be nice to the person next to me, it profiteth me nothing.

Joseph Smith once said, “The great grand principle of the gospel is friendship.” And this year, more than ever, I want to be a friend to everyone I meet. Take my parking spot at the mall; I’ll find another. No worries if the checker messes up my transaction; I can smile and laugh and sympathize while she fixes the problem. I simply can’t shop and wrap presents for all the wonderful people in my path but I can offer patience, hand out compliments and extend the benefit of the doubt.

Several years ago our bishop suggested that instead of distributing gifts throughout the neighborhood that we contribute money to a collective service project. “We all love each other, ” he declared, “let’s just give each other a hug or a handshake and put our money towards people who truly need it.” It’s been a wonderful system. Besides saving the women(always the women) a lot of fuss trying to deliver presents to dozens of homes and fretting over forgotten friends, our collective contributions have replenished the food pantry, dug wells in Africa and put shoes on calloused feet.

This year, I’m especially grateful for our communal gift. For the many people in my neighborhood who are out of work or simply struggling, there is no pressure to “keep up.” Everyone gives generously whether their donation is $200 or $2. Because no matter how small the amount– it’s full of love for our neighbors. And that’s priceless.

*not her real name 😉

December 4, 2008
December 7, 2008



  1. duchess

    December 5, 2008

    So true. My brother-in-law lost his job at the end of October – they’re ok for now but how long before something comes along?
    Our country is definitely in a learning period & they’re very tough to get through.
    Prayers & well wishes from SC to your friend.

  2. M

    December 5, 2008

    I am so jealous of your ward. I would love, love, love to do that in ours. –Emily M.

  3. Erik

    December 5, 2008

    Thanks for this great post Michelle. Good friendship is always the best gift.

    My resolve to be a better friend always seems to be strengthened at funerals. Great resolutions just a bit too late always lead to bitter tears. I resolve now to be a better friend and I am not going to any funerals in the near future.

    Here is some great council that shows how true friendship leads to a closer relationship with God.,17905,4720-1,00.html

    My favorite line, “If the consummate Christian attribute of charity has a first cousin, it is friendship.”

    My other favorite line, “The linchpin of a lasting marriage is a simple concept with a profound impact: friendship.”

    I am lucky to be in love with my best friend. xoxox

  4. Claudia

    December 6, 2008

    Thank you for being such a great friend to me and my family.

    When we often got separated at the “Trees” today I always knew it was because you had run into a friend along the way. You stop and visit and show genuine interest in whoever it happens to be. What an example you are to us all on practicing what you preach. Love you tons!C.

  5. Linn

    December 6, 2008

    Oh I love this post. How much influence does a Relief Society president have? I would love to suggest this to our bishop. I’m writing the man an email when I’m finished with this LONG comment.

    We received a recorded message from the kids’ elementary school a couple of days ago (they happen about once a week). In it the principal said that the staff would love it if instead of giving Christmas gifts to each teacher, if we would consider making a donation somewhere and have the kids write a card to their teacher telling them about it. How much do I love this idea? A lot I say. A lot. As a former teacher myself, I so should have thought of it.

  6. Ken

    December 6, 2008

    Dear Michelle,
    I appreciate your kind heart as well as your wisdom. I believe your posting “gifts” is really a valuable gift and thank you very much for sharing.
    I love you.

  7. Kelly

    December 6, 2008

    Lovely, thank you!
    xo, Kelly

  8. StubbyDog

    December 6, 2008

    I’m sorry for all who may be financially unstable this year…so many more than in recent years past. Seems like all of us know at least one or two good families in this situation.

    Even though I don’t take my personal inspiration from scripture, that in no way means that I believe it has nothing good to say. What a wonderful sentiment no matter what the season.

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