The following is an excerpt from a story by Ardeth G. Kapp, former General Relief Society President, entitled “The Gift.” Sister Kapp tells of a Christmas season visit to the home of an eighty-six-year-old friend who had been injured and the opportunity to meet his grandson, Brent, who was eight.
While we exchanged greetings and hugs, Brent stood anxiously waiting for the first opportunity to ask a question. In a most forthright and direct way he simply asked, “Have you ever shaken hands with the prophet?” The eagerness with which he asked gave me reason to believe that he may have rehearsed that question in his mind several times in anticipation of my visit.
“Yes, Brent,” I said. “I have shaken the hand of the prophet.”
“Oh,” he said. His eyes were wide, and his voice reminded me of what a great privilege that is. “If I could just shake the hand of the prophet,” he went on. His tone suggested that should that be a possibility, it would surely be the greatest Christmas gift he could have; and if not the greatest, at least it would be among the very top.
Sensing the love and respect Brent obviously felt for our prophet, and wanting to somehow provide a tie between the prophet and the young boy, I reached out my hand. “Brent,” I said, “this hand has shaken the hand of the prophet.”
He grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously. Then, letting go, he turned his hand over from front to back to examine it thoroughly. “I’ll never wash my hand,” he said. Considering the problems this decision might cause, I suggested that he probably should wash his hand and just keep the memory in his mind. This suggestion was not acceptable. He had a better idea. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll wash my hand, but I’ll save the water.” That seemed like a good suggestion, although I supposed he was only joking. Shortly Brent left the room. The warmth from the fire and the lights from the tree created a wonderful setting to visit. Together with Brent’s adopted grandfather and his grandmother, we shared memories of Christmases past.
A few minutes later Brent returned, this time carrying a plastic bag dripping with water. Before anyone could question him, he proudly announced, “I washed my hand,” holding up the bagful of water for all to see. We talked about the water in the bag and how that was a distant connection to the prophet; then our visit about Christmases past continued. Brent sat on the floor facing the Christmas tree, his knees peeking through his faded bluejeans, and from the corner of my eye I watched him examine the bag of water as if he were expecting to see some evidence that this was holy water. The fire burned low and the lights on the tree seemed to brighten.
After a few minutes Brent got up and, taking his treasure with him, left the room. While I wondered if we would see him again before we left, he returned-this time without the plastic bag full of water. He had determined a better solution for his desire to be in touch with the prophet. Standing in the door way with his T-shirt wet all the way down the front, he explained what he had done. “I drank the water,” he said.
. . . .
The sacramental prayer had been offered, and the sacred emblems were being passed quietly and reverently. The Sunday before Christmas brings a sensitivity that makes important things even more important-a time of recommitment and rededication, of sorrow for wrong-doings and resolve and hope to do better in the new year. As the sister on my right passed the sacrament tray and held it while I raised the small cup of water to my lips, into my mind came this thought: “I want to get this water on the inside.” I thought of Brent, a newly baptized member. I remembered the baptismal covenant. I thought of the symbolism of the water, the washing away of our sins. The cup of water of which I would partake renewed the promises and blessings of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It was his birthday we were celebrating. I could hear in my mind again the sacramental prayer on the water: “that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.”
It was Christmas, a holy celebration in memory of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The symbolism of the water was to represent his blood, which was shed for each of us so that we might live and have eternal life. The words of a little verse I had heard many years earlier came to my mind with new meaning: “Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,/ If he is not born in thee thy soul is still forlorn.”
“Thank you, Brent,” I said to myself, “for this wonderful gift you have given me, the increased desire to drink the water-the symbolism of his atonement-to get it on the inside so that I might become more like him.”