[Symbol] – Christmas Lights
[A Symbol related Story]
Ned Winder’s Christmas
by Mike Winder, grandson and neighbour
My children are the sixth generation of Winders to live on Winder Lane, the tree-lined private road leading up to Winder Farms in West Valley City, Utah. My parents live two doors down, closest to the dairy. Grandpa and Grandma Winder’s home is next door, and cousins and aunts and uncles live in the other homes. Winder Lane consists of occasional speed bumps, seven homes, and the dairy campus of the Winder Country Store, milk processing plant, and Winder Farms offices.
The houses are all on the east side of the lane, with Valley View Memorial Park—a cemetery founded by family members back in the fifties on some excess farmland—on the west side. Tall trees filled with bird nests, thick bushes where ducks hide, and a cheerful little stream serve as a buffer between the lane and the cemetery. The dead make great neighbors. They don’t bark or have loud parties, but their visitors do cause quite the traffic on Memorial Day! In its heyday, the family ran the cemetery, the dairy, and a bakery that was part of the dairy. Grandpa Ned used to joke that the Winder business slogan should be “Drink our milk, eat our bread, and let us bury you when you’re dead!”
Oh, Grandpa Ned! His colorful personality was legendary in his day. He had a way of brightening up everyone he met and always leaving smiles in his wake. There is a void in the world since he passed away in the summer of 2005. That August, he moved from his home on the east side of Winder Lane to rest in peace in his cemetery plot on the west side.
Winder Lane is beautiful in all seasons but especially in the winter. As I look out my front window on the lane covered in white, the snow continues to fall. Its hypnotic peacefulness causes me to think of years gone by. There is no more magical season than Christmas. And on Winder Lane, there was no more magical presence than Ned Winder.
* * *
Ned woke up early that December day. Of course, as a former milkman, he habitually woke early. He quietly got ready for work, taking care not to awaken his sweetheart, Gwen. For as much as Ned liked to wake up early, Gwen liked to sleep in. He once quipped that on the morning of the First Resurrection, he’d have to come back later in the day for his Gwennie.
He carefully put a red sock on one foot and a green one on the other. Usually, he matched his socks, but this was the Christmas season, and having one red sock and one green was yet another way to celebrate the time of year and put a smile on someone’s face.
He slicked his dark hair with Brylcreem, as usual, and opened his bathroom cabinet to choose a toothbrush. There before him were seventeen toothbrushes hanging upside down in a neat row, each on its respective little nail. Nothing bothered Ned worse than a soggy toothbrush, so he reached out and grabbed the one used least recently in his rotation and enjoyed the firm bristles.
As Ned left the house, he looked around his yard with some sense of satisfaction. The sun was just coming up, but he could still see the Christmas lights that enveloped the bushes. He gazed up at the streamers of Christmas bulbs descending from the trees on the lane, and he smiled wide as he looked back at his brick home. Decades before National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation made its debut, Ned Winder was Utah’s Clark Griswold. Over seventeen thousand lights adorned the 1950s rambler, and Ned was excited to turn them on later that evening after finishing his magnum opus—a peach tree on the north side of the house that held as many lights as any Christmas masterpiece on Temple Square.
But there was no time to fuss with the lights this morning. Ned put on his coat, pulled on his Jersey gloves, and bounded up the lane toward the dairy. The previous night’s snow had created a virtual white tunnel through the large trees, and Ned thought there was not a more beautiful street in the Salt Lake Valley.
Soon he came to the Money Tree. Near the top of the lane, a special tree branched off in two directions just a few feet above the ground. Each of the sides had grown tall like the other trees on the lane, but the split had created a special pocket where Ned loved to toss his spare change. Generations of Winder kids would check the Money Tree when they were in the area, often delighting to find a few coins. Ned smiled to himself, wondering which child would find a little Christmas magic in the Money Tree later that day.
In the dairy yard, he greeted each employee with a warm handshake. As he did each Christmas season, he reached into his pocket and gave each employee he met a crisp five-dollar bill. It wasn’t much, but it was an extra surprise on any given December day. A funny saying here and a little joke there, Ned scattered sunshine as he traversed the dairy yard that morning, greeting everyone he came across. He gathered a few quarts of eggnog from the large walk-in icebox adjacent to the milk plant and a box of sweet rolls from the bakery, then headed back home.
It was time to go to work already, and Ned quickly backed out of his driveway. People often know of Ned Winder’s role as a partner in Winder Dairy, but few realize that for thirty years he was also executive secretary to the Missionary Department of the Church.
He was a humble man whose home was not elaborate and who never owned a boat, a motor home, or an RV. But where he did indulge was his car. His maroon Porsche 911 Carrera was known all over town, and with its eponymous “Ned” plates, it could not be missed.
On this winter morning, the Porsche cruised into downtown and dipped into the underground parking garage of the Church Office Building.
“Good morning, Mr. Winder!” the parking attendant shouted as Ned pulled past the booth.
“Merry Christmas, Paul!” Ned replied as he handed the attendant a package of sweet rolls through the window of the Porsche.
Ned found a parking space and got out of the sports car. He pulled a plush cloth out of the trunk and carefully wiped away the moisture that had accumulated from the wet December roads.
Elder David B. Haight walked by and complimented him on how clean his car looked. “You take such good, loving care of that car, don’t you?” he said.
Ned smiled. “I love this car. Do you think I could have it sealed to me?”
Elder Haight looked at him with a wry smile, wagged his finger, and said, “Go to your room!”
Once inside the Church Office Building, Ned enjoyed passing around the quarts of eggnog and sweet rolls to all the employees. Though he worked with numerous General Authorities, he always treated the secretaries and other staff members as equally important.
“Merry Christmas,” he said to each as he shared the treats and often a kiss on the cheek of the sisters in his friendly, sweet way.
The morning found Ned stuck in an especially long meeting with the Church’s Missionary Committee. Apostle Spencer W. Kimball was chairman of the missionary committee at the time, and the meeting was being held in his office.
At one point that morning, Ned was using the little washroom adjoining the office. Having skipped breakfast in his rush, he was pleasantly surprised to find a cellophane package half full of macaroons Elder Kimball had left there.
Ned’s favorite cookies were macaroons, and his growling tummy convinced him it’d be fine to sneak just one. But when he bit into the cookie, he found it was as hard as cement and nearly broke a tooth! Embarrassed to put a cookie with his teeth marks in it back, he pocketed it and returned to the meeting.
As the conversation wound down, Elder Kimball asked the group if anyone else had anything to add. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said no. Elder Thomas S. Monson said no. And Elder Theodore Tuttle said no. But the committee’s secretary raised his hand and was called on. “Yes, Ned?”
Ned pulled the teeth-marked cookie out of his pocket and said, “Elder Kimball, I think those macaroons on the back of your toilet are getting really stale, and I just might sue you for busting my teeth!”
The office erupted into laughter, and Elder Kimball laughed especially hard. He thought that was the funniest thing and said, “See, Ned, crime doesn’t pay!”
As the employees left the Church Office Building that evening and were gathering their coats, Ned paused to help a few of his female coworkers put their coats on. “You don’t have to help me just because I’m a lady,” one said.
“I’m helping you because I’m a gentleman,” he replied.
The workers, all bundled up to face the cold, descended in crowded elevators to the parking garage.
But before Ned returned to his car, he made a quick stop next door at Temple Square to pick up a few strands of lights that his friend Helmut had repaired for him. Being friends with the head of Temple Square’s light display came in handy this time of year! He had saved his last quart of eggnog for Helmut and thanked him for his help with the lights.
“Thank you, Ned,” Helmut said in his thick German accent. “And good luck with the lights!”
As Ned cruised back to Winder Lane after his day at the Church Office Building, he thought about how much he enjoyed working with the Brethren. They had grown to love him and appreciate his sense of humor. What better work to be engaged in at Christmastime, he thought, than in helping Christ continue to build His kingdom on the earth.
After supper, Ned went out to put the finishing touches on his masterpiece tree. At the time, Ned’s home boasted the largest light display on any private residence in the state. In the years to come, the newspapers were sure to include his home on their list of must-see holiday displays.
As he stood on the ladder and reached out to put on yet another strand of lights, a fuse blew, and every light went out. He lumbered down the ladder and went inside to see what had tripped the breakers. Sheepishly, Gwen confessed that when she’d opened the icebox door, it had blown out all the lights! They shared a good laugh, but Ned warned the family to be careful so they didn’t run too many appliances while the lights were on.
Having reset the breaker, Ned headed out to finish decorating the peach tree. It was getting dark. This, of course, made the seventeen thousand lights even more spectacular, and Ned smiled despite his cold nose. He was adding the final touches to each carefully wrapped branch when a car pulled into the driveway from the lane. Oh, how nice, Ned thought. Someone is taking the time to pull in to compliment me on my lights.
The window was rolled down, and the lady in the car looked up at Ned on his stepladder. “Hey, mister,” she bellowed. “Can’t you widen this road of yours?” Ned was uncharacteristically speechless as the car pulled back out of the driveway and continued down narrow Winder Lane.
Does anyone appreciate all these lights? he thought to himself. Are the hours and hours of putting these up worth it? He was too much of an optimist to let one crank get him down, but as he lay in bed that night, he said a silent prayer. “Father, may these beautiful Christmas lights bring some joy, some light of Christ into someone’s soul this season.”
Ned awoke a little earlier than normal the next day and was unsure why. But once his mind was awhirl, he realized it was still dark and he could flip on his Christmas lights for the milkmen to enjoy as they headed down from the dairy to make their deliveries.
Ned breathed a sigh of relief as the breakers held. And why shouldn’t they, since few appliances were running when everyone else was asleep? He walked into the lane to admire his handiwork.
While standing in the road, looking at his twinkling home, he heard sounds coming from the cemetery behind him. He walked into the cemetery and saw a woman mourning near a fresh grave. Ned did not want to intrude, so he watched her from behind the trees for a moment before returning home. How sad she seemed! he thought, and his kind heart ached.
As he walked up his driveway, Ned heard the woman get into her car. He noticed she was now driving out of the cemetery and up the lane. He watched as she slowly drove by the spectacle of lights and then went on to turn around at the top of the lane by the dairy. Ned quickly went into the house and grabbed an extra package of sweet rolls, and then he stood out in the lane.
He hailed her to stop as she drove back down, and when she did, she rolled down the car window.
“Good morning!” Ned said cheerfully. “You’re the first person to visit my lights today, and you won a package of fresh Winder Dairy sweet rolls!”
The shocked woman reached out and accepted the pastries. She became very emotional and, through the tears, muttered a perfunctory “Thank you.”
Ned smiled warmly at her and replied, “Isn’t it great to think of the Savior this time of year?”
The puzzled woman asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“Because you’re my sister, and I love you,” Ned replied to the stranger.
Feeling concerned, he watched the car roll over the speed bumps and down the lane, and then he headed back inside for breakfast.
As Ned was eating his breakfast, the phone rang. It was the woman calling to thank him for brightening her morning.
“My husband passed away recently, and I was visiting his grave. I’m alone now and so depressed,” she explained. “While I was at the cemetery, I was thinking I might go home and take my own life.” Then she said, “Your visit with me on the lane cheered me up and gave me hope. There is good in the world, none of us are alone, and we do indeed have a Savior. Thank you, thank you,” she cried, bringing tears to Ned’s eyes. “You saved my life today!”
[Song] Christmas Lights
[Scripture] John 8: 12
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
[Challenge – Be a Light] – At Christmastime, we often have colourful or bright lights and candles that decorate our homes and trees. In the scriptures, Jesus is called the light of the world. This is because he brought the light of knowledge & truth into the world. At Christmas, lights and candles symbolise his divine light and the divine life of the spirit inside each one of us. Christmas lights remind us to look for Jesus for truth in all things. Today think about who you are – A child of God and think of a way to let your light shine!
[Article relating to the challenge]
In an increasingly dark world, we can be a bright light to those around us and a shining example of Christlike love.
“Opportunities to shine surround us each day,” President Thomas S. Monson teaches. “As we follow the example of the Saviour, ours will be the opportunity to be a light in the lives of others, whether they be our own family members and friends, our co-workers, mere acquaintances, or total strangers.”
This holiday season, follow the Saviour’s example and look for ways to be a light to those around you. As you do so, the light you share will reflect back and brighten your own life.
Media link: [Light of the World]
10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :
[A Favourite from Previous Advents]
One Winter morning at Sunday school, shortly before Christmas, Marcie’s teacher
read aloud this little poem by Condra Cadle:
“No deep darkness in the world can overcome the light;
A Single candle flame will burn against the darkest night.
Let all the world of darkness come, Resentment, envy, fears,
Then light the single flame of love; The darkness disappears!”
To many children in the class it was only a poem – but for Marcie it was a message. “Perhaps I can light that one little candle flame!” she thought.
At Home, Marcie looked through eyes of love at her family. What did each one need to ‘light up’ some dark spot?
On Christmas morning Marcie’s mother recieved her small candle and a gift card which read, “As my Christmas gift please take one hour to rest right after dinner
on wednesday and friday for this whole year! I’ll do all the dishes!” Then to her 4 year old brother, Brian, Marcie gave “A daily story reading time.” And Marcie’s card to her dad promised “One half hour of ‘peace and quiet’ right after you
come home from work each night. I’ll keep Brian busy!”
As each one opened his gift card, Marcie felt the growing excitement of giving Brian squealed in delight; Mother hugged her tightly and Dad – well, Dad had just the trace of tears in the corner of his eyes. The whole room was shining with the invisible light of love.”
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