In September 2008 I wrote a story about the journey of a single peach, which passed through the hands of thousands of Latter-day Saint volunteers to the mouths of a hurricane-torn family.
The story started at a Church welfare farm in North Ogden, Utah, where local members cared for peach trees. In late summer of that year, volunteers picked a bumper crop of peaches.
The peaches were delivered to a Church cannery in Lindon, Utah, where they were cleaned and processed by additional volunteers.
Now bearing the “Deseret” label, the canned peaches were transported to Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, where still more volunteers placed them into family food boxes. Those boxes were then loaded — again by volunteer Church members — onto a truck and driven to Texas.
Latter-day Saint volunteers there unloaded the truck and carried the food boxes into the home of a needy family in the greater Houston, Texas, area; the family was still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ike that devastated their community.
The family opened a food box filled with enough to feed them for a week to 10 days. They found rice, vegetable oil, peanut butter, fruit drink mix and, of course, a single can of peaches.
When the story ran I felt satisfied that I had communicated that the peach was proof that through small and simple acts of service the Church can collectively accomplish something large. Many hands had touched that peach. Many hands had been a part of the Church’s disaster response.
In essence, members went and picked the peaches in the orchard. And they went to the cannery and put the peaches in a can. And they stocked the cans in the storehouse and put them in a box that eventually made it to the arms of someone in need.
Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and and president of Latter-day Saint Charities, reported in October 2021 general conference on the many ways The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been responding to the divine mandate to care for the poor.
In a follow-up to her conference report, Sister Eubank shared on the Church’s blog “16 Things You Can Do To Be a Humanitarian.”
“Each of these suggestions is simple, but I believe the little drops of good each of us contributes add up over time to truly change the world,” she wrote.
- Fast and give a generous fast offering.
- Volunteer regularly. JustServe.org is a good resource to find opportunities.
- Focus on the rising generation.
- Talk to your municipal leaders. “What are their local priorities? What help do they need? How can you contribute and involve others?”
- Ministering. “Help people with their problems. Let them feel your sincere interest and love.”
- Pray for the improvement of circumstances you hear about on the news. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous [person] availeth much” (James 5:16).
- Reach out to other faiths and congregations, and build relationships.
- Serve a mission or support a missionary. “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).
- Learn a skill, teach a skill. “This simple action bonds us to each other in ways that can last decades. It’s the humanitarian superpower.”
- Think of emergency preparedness beyond food storage.
- Ask the bishop, Relief Society president or elders quorum president who might need some special, unassigned attention and care.
- Donate to the Church’s humanitarian fund.
- Reach out with friendship and understanding to someone who is not attending church right now.
- Make things accessible for everyone.
- Learn more about nutrition.
- Pray for God to send you to someone who needs you. “Every day.”
We all want to contribute our little drop of good.
A few days after the peach story ran I got several emails.
The first said I had underestimated the size of the North Ogden orchard. The writer said it was quite large for a noncommercial venture, having over 4,000 peach trees with 570 new trees planted in 2006 and 2007. He said the crop had grown with the maturing of the trees with 286,000 pounds harvested in 2005, 335,000 pounds in 2006, 454,000 pounds in 2007 and 465,000 pounds in 2008. He estimated the hours of donated labor in 2008 alone exceeded 11,000 hours.
A second email, from another reader, spoke about the members who gave their time to pick the peaches — some so enthusiastic they picked “green peaches.”
A final email came from a man who detailed an error in the story. He said I forgot to mention his important job in the peach epic. He had pruned the peach trees.
I sat at my desk wondering why people would care so much about peaches. Then I realized they weren’t writing me emails about peaches alone, but instead about their desires to express their feelings of compassion for others in ways that will make a difference.
They cared how the trees were pruned and if the peaches were ripe when they were harvested. They cared how many peaches left their care, because it meant more people who could share the joy of their harvest. They cared about peaches because they cared about people.
In general conference, Sister Eubank articulated why that matters.
“As baptized members of the Church, we are under covenant to care for those in need,” she said. “Our individual efforts don’t necessarily require money or faraway locations; but they do require the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a willing heart to say to the Lord: ‘Here am I, send me.’”