It was Christmas Day 1920. I was seven years old. My father, mother, sister and I were living in Auburn, a small town about 70 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska. We were very poor, like most people at that time. However, Christmas was always a special day. We had a Christmas tree decorated with homemade ornaments and popcorn chains draped around the tree and we hoped there would be a few presents under it.
That year my father had been away from home most of the time working in another city as there was no work in our small town, so we did not expect him home for Christmas; but he surprised us and did come home. I was so glad to see him and it made our Christmastime complete having all our family together.
Sometime during the day my father picked me up, put me on his knee and reached into his pocket. He took something out and handed it to me. What do you think it was? …A nice new shiny pocketknife.
Oh how happy I was. My father could not have given me anything that I wanted more than a pocket knife. I was the envy of all my friends. I carried it with me everywhere I went. I even took it to bed with me. I cherished that knife and took exceptionally good care of it because I knew that I would probably not get another one.
As I grew older and became an adul,t that knife lost some of its interest for me. It became a little rusty, the blades became dull and the handles lost their luster. It finally ended up in one of my tool boxes with some other old tools that I seldom used.
Some 50 years later, in sorting out some tools, I found that old knife and it brought back memories of my childhood and that happy Christmas day. I decided to restore that old knife as near as I could to the original condition it was in when my father gave it to me. I sanded the rust from the steel parts, polished the blades, buffed the handles, and did whatever I could to make it look as new as possible.
A few more years went by and I decided to give that old knife to my oldest son Gary. I hope that some day my son will give it to one of his sons and he will be able to say “Here is a knife that belonged to my grandfather.”
I like to compare my life to that old knife. When I came into this world my spirit was bright and shiny, like that knife, but as I grew older my spirit lost some of its luster; it became a little dull, a few rust spots appeared, and it took on some of the bad influences of the world, just like that old knife.
Then a marvelous thing happened. Two young men knocked on our door, Elder Lindsay and Elder Hardy, two of the finest young men I have ever known. My wife, Geneva, invited them to come back at a later date when I would be home. It was through the efforts of these two young elders who taught us the gospel, introduced us to the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith story and encouraged us to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that my spirit had the opportunity of regaining some of its lost luster, kinda like the restoring of that old knife.
Our two sons went on a mission, our daughter married a returned missionary, they have all been married in the temple, and all of our grandchildren are active in the church. Today my wife and I are temple workers in the Chicago temple helping the patrons that come to the temple each day in doing work for their families and kindred dead and giving us the opportunity of serving our Father in Heaven.
Each day our lives become a little better, our knowledge becomes greater, our dedication is stronger; all as a result of the love of two Elders teaching us the gospel and giving our spirits the opportunity of becoming brighter each day, kinda like that old pocket knife my father gave me when I was 7 years old.
Author: Ralph A. Barnes (deceased) | Submitted by his son Gary Barnes