Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Every December we celebrate Christmas, and that celebration generally entails thinking up new ways to remember and emulate the Savior whose birth we celebrate: Jesus Christ. One popular way to remember Christ's example is to surround yourself with the questioning acronym WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? You can buy bracelets, jewelry, tracksuits, giant beanbags, magnets, stuffed animals and other products emblazoned with these four letters. If remembering the acronym WWJD really made people more Christlike, one would suspect that the sheer volume of merchandise currently available for purchase online would have already kickstarted the Millennium and triggered the Second Coming.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I suspect that the WWJD acronym really isn't that effective, perhaps because of its ubiquity. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints frequently tout the virtue of wearing a CTR (Choose the Right) ring, which they hope will inspire them to make good choices. But the constant presence of the letters CTR or WWJD renders the message they represent less meaningful. If the letters were invisible until you were about to sin and then flashed in bright neon, I suspect that the message would be much more potent.

Another reason the WWJD message may not have the intended effect is because we might find it difficult to imagine exactly what Jesus would do in any given situation. If Jesus was late and on his way home to a wife who needed him, would he let that car into traffic or would he press on? What would Jesus do? I have no idea. It's a little bit hard to imagine, in part because he lived in a time and place so different from our own and in part because it's hard to imagine (at least for me) the Son of God doing mundane things, like driving home from work in rush hour traffic.

For these reasons, it helps to find Christ-like qualities and examples in the people we associate with on a day-to-day basis. I can't imagine Jesus on the beltline, but I can imagine my mother, who would always let the needy driver in (and who would never be late in the first place). In addition, people, unlike acronyms, are hard to ignore; we might take the Christ-like example or qualities of our spouse for granted, but it requires more spiritual laziness on our part to ignore an act of service than to ignore a few mute letters.

Last Christmas, I was privileged to see such a Christ-like example, and I'm grateful to say that this mortal disciple of Jesus Christ has had a much more positive effect on my own thoughts and actions than the CTR ring I lost five minutes after my baptism seventeen years ago. In December, 2006, during my family's annual White Elephant Gift Exchange, my brother Aaron randomly drew the number one, which entitled him to claim any gift at the night's end as his own. He selected a "magic" lamp given by my father which entitled the holder to one wish. This lamp and Aaron's wish were the subject of significant familial speculation. We all wondered what Aaron would ask for: A new car? A TV? A special outing? While none of us knew what he would request, many of us (myself included) thought about what we would ask for in that situation, and I never dreamed of doing what Aaron did with his wish.

One year later, at last year's White Elephant event in December 2007, Aaron redeemed his wish. Concerned for my father's health and the effect that his prodigious consumption of Diet Coke was having on it, Aaron asked my father to give up colas. His request drew a stifled moan from other cola drinkers in the room and surprised almost everyone. Aaron could ask Dad for anything--and he asked him to stop drinking Coke? Every wish that I had imagined asking my father involved a substantial gain on my part. I would ask him for money, for a gift, or for some other tangible goods that would benefit me and impoverish him (relatively, of course, not absolutely). Aaron asked for a gift that benefitted himself little or none (perhaps he anticipated a benefit in the prospect of additional years with his father) and that benefitted my father's health tremendously (or at least it was intended to). He took a situation that invited him to be selfish and turned it into an opportunity for selfless giving.

Now, I don't know what gift Jesus would bring to a White Elephant Gift Exchange, and if you had asked me before last year's event what he would ask for if in possession of the coveted wish, I would have had no idea. But I know now--Jesus would have done exactly what Aaron did, which is another way of saying that Aaron knew W(hat)W(ould)J(esus)D(o) and he did it. Think about it: If we gave Jesus a wish this Christmas, would he ask for a Wii? For a Tickle-Me-Elmo? For a book? No--if we gave Jesus a wish this Christmas, he would use that wish to bless our lives, because he loves us more than himself. Aaron taught me that, and the return of the White Elephant Gift Exchange has reminded me of his lesson.

Now, my challenge is to remember his selfless example (and the EXEMPLAR he was imitating) throughout the rest of the year. I've thought about putting a picture of Aaron in my wallet, but I just don't look in there very often. If only there was something I could do to help me remember on a regular basis, perhaps a saying that would remind me of Aaron's wish/gift all year round, that I could emblazon on my bracelets, jewelry, tracksuits, giant beanbags, magnets and stuffed animals. Maybe WWAD? What Would Aaron Do?


Jenny said...

I LOVE this post. The W-WAD is going to be an acronym I use often.

Schenewarks said...

I'm sitting here in Texas with tears streaming down my face. How nice that you were able to put into words how all of us feel in our hearts. A very nice tribute, and long due.

Jodi said...

Thank you for sharing. That is a great example of how we should all become.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas together.

Becky said...

Nicely written Zach. I too felt the same way as Aaron presented his wish. I just hope that dad can see it the same way as the rest of us in the room did. Merry Christmas my brother. It was great to see you! :)