“Gordon B. Hinckley grew up in a home where Christmas was celebrated in “grand fashion.” Not much money was spent, but everyone worked hard to share Christmas joy with others. In this effort, Gordon’s parents led the way. During much of the time he was growing up, his father, Bryant, served as stake president of the Liberty Stake. Gordon watched his mother, year after year, spend weeks before Christmas baking bread and making her special divinity.
After all the preparations were complete, his parents would visit the home of every widow in the stake and bring them gifts of bread and treats as well as Christmas cheer. This wasn’t a small effort. There were between eighteen and twenty thousand members of the Liberty Stake. But Gordon’s parents tried to remember every widow. So it was only natural that their children would also learn that the best gifts you can give at Christmas are gifts of your hands and your heart.
Young Gordon found many ways to do this. The Hinckley home didn’t have a fireplace, so how could Santa come down the chimney? Gordon solved the problem. Each year he built a temporary Christmas fireplace. After he had constructed a wooden frame, he neatly wrapped it in heavy paper printed to look like bricks. He placed real logs in the fireplace opening and tucked a small electric light behind the logs to give the semblance of a fire. It was on this fireplace mantel, reconstructed each holiday season, that Gordon, his younger brother, Sherm, and their three younger sisters always hung their stockings on Christmas Eve.
Gordon, following his parents’ example, spent much time and effort to make Christmas special for his sisters, Ruth, Ramona, and Sylvia. He had help from his brother. Both boys were handy with a saw and hammer. Their first collaboration was a pony cart (they called it a “go-cart”), which they hitched to a horse and rode all over the East Millcreek farm where they lived in the summertime. It was only natural that they would use their talents to bless other members of their family.
As Christmas approached, the boys would slip downstairs to the cellar at odd times on a special mission. In the cellar sat a large coal-burning furnace that heated the home, but there was also a small workplace where tools were kept. For weeks, in secrecy and anticipation, the boys worked away on Christmas projects as special gifts for their sisters. After each work session the projects were tucked behind the big furnace, where no one could see them. One year they made a child-size cupboard. Another year it was a green table and chairs. A small, yellow treasure chest appeared on Christmas morning. On another Christmas, a child-size desk with a fancy chair appeared under the tree. Hardly a Christmas passed without beautiful handmade gifts for the girls. And how exciting it was for them to see what their brothers had made each year. Because Gordon and Sherm became skilled, these gifts showed a definite talent for woodwork and were useful and treasured for many years. Some still survive today. They were gifts of the hands and the heart to be cherished.”
What could you give as a gift of your hands and heart?
Taken from: Laura Willes, “Christmas with the Prophets”, p. 154-156.