A Deeper Hunger
(by Ramona W. Cannon)
Late in the pioneer era, the Nelson family emigrated from Denmark and settled in the little town of Goshen, a dry, sandy, unyielding part of “Zion” at the foot of Utah Lake. Only with great difficulty could they eke out the humblest sort of living. This condition was particularly true when the father left his family to go on a mission.
The children and their mother suffered, sometimes acutely, from physical hunger—especially the hunger for fruit, which would not grow in Goshen. The Golden Apples of mythology, eagerly as they were sought, were less desirable to kings and princesses than were the luscious rosy apples of nature to the fruit-starved children of this little central Utah settlement.
Christmas was approaching, but the Nelson children were not excited about what Santa Claus would bring them. Of one thing they felt sure: he would bring them no surprises. Then one day the Nelson children saw something—something mysterious—something they felt they should not have seen. Mother was going into the house with a small packet and an air of great secrecy.
The next day when their mother was out working, temptation assailed the children. They stole up to the attic and came close to the old trunk, where the family treasures were kept and where things were hidden when hiding was necessary.
They did not open the trunk—that would not have been right—but they did wish to haunt the scene of mystery. Yet already the mystery was disclosed. Uhm! What a delicious aroma!
“Apples!” they cried. And again, in their awed voice: “Apples!”
The next day and each day thereafter until Christmas, the children returned to the attic to smell the fragrance of those apples and to anticipate the pleasure of setting teeth into their juicy firmness.
On Christmas morning each child received his round, rosy apple, and felt that indeed Santa Claus had been good. The other children ate their apples slowly, but young Nels looked at his, felt it, inhaled its fragrance and held on to it.
In the afternoon, when the other children went out to play, Nels carried his apple. A little neighbor girl came out. She had been very ill and looked pale, thin and starved. Many times Nels had felt sorry for her and had wished he might do something for her.
“Look!” he cried as she came nearer. “Look! This is my Christmas present!”
She looked and gasped. As Nels watched her, the fragile little body seemed to fade away, and he saw only a pair of eyes—great burning eyes fixed on his rosy apple. They did not ask, those eyes, nor did her voice make a petition. But Nels knew that here was the opportunity to do something for his friend who had been ill. The deeper hunger to be kind—to give joy to another—waged war with the sharp pangs of physical need for the luscious fruit.
With a great inner wrench he forced a smile and thrust the apple into her hand.
“Here,” he said. “You keep it for your Christmas.”
Nels wheeled about and ran off, hot tears burning his eyes. But his pain quickly turned to happiness—and did ever after—as he recalled the expression of ineffable joy on the face of a little girl who had been ill.
(Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, December 1935, p. 810-811.)