‘She did come back’

Every night for two weeks, a neighbor brought food

I was really busy trying to finish a writing project. I was behind, as usual. I was so focused on writing that I had let many things go at home. My children were fixing dinner. The usual fare was a baked potato in the microwave, until the youngest also put the metal fork in with the potato.

I rushed into Relief Society one Sunday morning. Unstrung and preoccupied would be a fair description. I sat down next to Eileen. She was new to our ward. She and her husband had just finished restoring an old home before they moved in. (In our ward, everyone is restoring an old home and living in the construction zone. So Eileen was unusual.) She had put down white rugs. That knowledge only added to the mystique of this very put-together woman.

She turned to me as I sat there trying to get a grip on life. And she asked the usual question, "How are you today?"

I looked at Eileen for a minute and tried to decide, "Do I tell her how I really am?" She was expecting the typical, "I'm fine," reply and then we would both look forward and sing the opening song. Except I wasn't fine. So I blurted out, "You know, I am going to start buying socks because I will never have time to wash the ones we have and I know I will never have time to match them."

She just looked at me. Stunned. And then she smiled and picked up the hymnbook as the sisters in the room began to sing the opening hymn.

I was mortified. I wished that the floor would open and take me straight down to the kitchen where I could make a fast exit. But it didn't and I sat through the meeting, Eileen not saying anything else to me, and thought how stupid to have told her "how I really was." My husband was the stake president. We had an image to maintain of being put together and on top of things. Whoops.

So I went home and told my family and they nodded in agreement. The state of the wash and the dinners was not good.

The next morning the phone rang. My husband answered and it was Eileen. She said, "President, I don't know what is going on at your house but I am going to bring you dinner every night for the next two weeks. Would that help?"

Without a pause he said, "Yes."

If she had gotten me on the phone I would have done my best to repair my image, "Oh, how nice of you. No, we're just fine." But she got Jeff, and that night at six, the doorbell rang and there was Eileen with her doctor husband and two trays with mounds of food. She walked in smiling and put the food down on the counter and then waved and said, "See you tomorrow."

The boys just looked at the feast and I said quickly, "We are going to eat only half of it, in case she doesn't come back." She did come back. Every day for two weeks. And she brought meals that saved us. But she brought much more. She brought love. It was the pure love of Christ. She saw a need and she acted. It wasn't an assignment on a sheet passed around a room. It was an expression of her heart. "I can help you." I learned a great deal about charity from Eileen.

Eileen showed me, and my family, such charity. It was charity "for the least" of God's children; it was love grounded in truly living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

She has been my dearest friend. I asked the Relief Society president to make her my visiting teacher. I hadn't had one in years. I trusted Eileen with my heart and my home. The president looked at me funny and said, "She has white rugs." I laughed. She is a saint, I said.

She loved me with pure charity — before she knew me. And I truly love her.

  • Heidi Swinton, a member of the University Ward, Salt Lake Central Stake, serves on the Relief Society general board.