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A few years ago, my grandmother received a confusing piece of mail.

It was a Christmas card, addressed to her. She gets lots of those. But what made this one unusual is that she could not place how — or even if — she knew the senders.

They got her name and address right, and even enclosed a family newsletter detailing all the previous year’s adventures.

But they seemed like strangers to my grandma.

Some people forget things as they age, but this is not the case with my grandmother. She can remember the name of the girl who hurt my feelings when I was in eighth grade and where she put her keys 10 minutes ago.

To say she’s sharp as a tack is an understatement.

But the people in the holiday card — I’ll call them the Smith family — were a mystery.

My grandma set about asking her friends if they, perhaps, knew the Smiths. Maybe she could place them if she could figure out how they had crossed paths, or how their social circles overlapped.

No luck. No one recognized the names. They are strangers to us all.

Still, my grandmother is always polite. She sent back a Christmas card of her own with a friendly greeting. Even though she didn’t know these folks, she did have their address, and they had sent her a lovely card. She felt it was only right to reciprocate.

This scenario has continued for the past five years. The Smiths have moved and changed addresses a couple of times, but still somehow keep track of my grandma’s address and send her holiday cards and newsy family updates. She always sends a card back and updates her own address book accordingly.

A couple weeks ago, she received a high school graduation announcement for the Smiths’ oldest child.

“Are you so proud?” I asked her as we laughed and laughed.

“I kind of am,” she admitted.

Despite not knowing this child beyond the annual holiday updates, my grandma immediately found a card and replied with a supportive congratulations and a small cash gift.

Now, if there were any risk of fraud or identity theft or any other kind of concerning potential threat in this story, I’d have counseled her to end the correspondence on the spot. But the Smiths are different from the secretive Nigerian princes in my email spam folder. All their correspondence is personal, and they are completely open about their own personal family details. It’s clear they believe they know my grandmother.

My grandma’s best guess is the Smith family must have briefly been in her church ward. Perhaps she served in a church calling with one of them. It’s entirely possible she made a big impression on someone in this family with a brief association.

It’s both puzzling and sort of silly, but in the best way. My grandmother’s example has me wondering, what if we all responded to people so kindly? What if we responded to every encounter with a family as if they were dear friends? What if every teen were surrounded by loving encouragement when they reached milestones? What if we spent less of our energy guarding our resources, and instead rejoiced at every opportunity to share?

There is not much written in scriptures about mystery holiday cards, but the Savior himself asked his followers to love their neighbors and welcome strangers. So while it may not be exactly doctrinal, I don’t think there is a more Christian response than my grandmother’s. I hope the Smiths feel loved.

Contact Sally at ordinarywitness@hotmail.com.

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