Spirit abundant on a small budget

The missionary quarters in Dilcon, Ariz., in 1983 was a one bedroom silver-gray trailer more than 25 years old. A warm furnace kept everyone cozy when it was on, but even then the wind blew through the door, cold during the winter and leaving a small pile of sand in the summer. The trailer was old and falling apart, but it was home to my companion and me, and had a wonderful spirit about it.

Two young children liked to visit us at the trailer, Cheryl, 8, and Yolanda, 11, who lived with their Aunt Mary in the Navajo Indian Reservation in the school housing project. The two were almost inseparable; Yolanda watched her younger sister like a mother and Cheryl would often hug her older sister.

When they came to visit us, we would tell them stories and they would try to teach us words in Navajo. This particular Christmas it was bitter cold but my companion and I wanted to have a special Christmas, so we decided to cut a Christmas tree from the nearby forest, which was then legal with a permit, for our trailer house. Our budget was small but we wanted to make most of the decorations anyway.

On our preparation day, we and a young couple, the Yazzies, drove 10 miles to a pion pine area. My companion had never used an ax before, so we laughed as she swung the ax whole-heartedly but missed the tree trunk altogether. We both took turns with the ax. It was snowing and cold but we knew hot chocolate would warm us up. Back at the trailer, there were several children waiting to help decorate the tree. We struggled and finally succeeded in setting the tree in a bucket of sand and rocks and water.

The tree looked beautiful as it was, but the children anxiously awaited to decorate it, so forward we went. Out came the papier-mache. Out came the only two pair of scissors that we owned. Out came the Elmer's Glue. Then the fun began. Most all of the children wanted to pop popcorn and string it on the tree. Many of the kernels were eaten before being strung. Several children worked sprinkling glitter on the colored paper for a chain garland. Of course, everyone helped cut out the many white paper snowflakes for window decorations.

While decorating, Cheryl asked to be excused and disappeared for about 20 minutes. Finally she returned. I saw her coming toward me. She tugged lightly on my sleeve. Then she pulled me closer and asked almost in a whisper: "Do angels live here?"

"I paused for a moment and gave her a hug and said, 'Yes, sometimes.' "

Cheryl went back to decorating the tree and I just watched the children interacting; it was indeed a time of merriment. We put a paper angel on top of the tree and felt it was very appropriate to put it there. I had to admit that Cheryl had provoked a thought within me: "Do angels live here? In the true spirit of Christmas, I would hope so."

When the tree lights, loaned to us by Aunt Mary, were turned on, the children cheered. We passed out candy canes left over from the Christmas tree and began to sing Christmas carols. We enjoyed singing holiday songs, but when we sang "O Holy Night," both my companion and I felt tears flowing down our faces in a great spirit of love and hope for these wonderful children.

Rose Johnson-Tsosie is a member of the Val Verda 3rd Ward, Bountiful Utah Val Verda Stake.