Friend to Friend


“I’ve often said I wasn’t born east of the tracks. I wasn’t born west of the tracks. I was born between the tracks—the tracks on First West and the tracks on Third West in Salt Lake City.

“My mother’s ancestors were converts from Scotland. My father’s mother came from England, and my father’s father came from Sweden. They met aboard ship while coming to America as converts to the Church. She was considerably younger than he, and so he waited for her to ‘grow up,’ that they might be married. I noted with interest in his missionary journal, years later, that the first entry said, ‘Today I entered the Salt Lake Temple, where my sweetheart and I were married for time and all eternity.’ Three days later the entry said, ‘Tonight the bishop called at our home, and I have been called to return to Sweden on a three-year mission. My sweet wife will remain at home and support me and sustain me.’ This is the kind of pioneer stock of which I am very proud.

“When I was a boy, our family had a home up Provo Canyon—and we still have it—where we would spend each July and August. For those two months I was able to fish and swim every day and live like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. I still enjoy swimming and fishing whenever I can manage the time for them.

“When I was about eleven, I started a hobby of raising pigeons. I still have some pigeons, and one of my sons has also taken up this hobby. I remember showing my pigeons at a state fair on one occasion and even winning blue ribbons for them. I’ve always enjoyed raising fancy chickens. Although I have lived in the city all my life, I’ve always had enough room to have a few chickens.

“I learned how to work from my father and began my first part-time job after school in the printing shop that he managed when I was fourteen. I don’t remember many days in my life after I was fourteen that I didn’t work, other than on Sundays. When you learn to work while you’re young, the habit stays with you. I’m happiest when I’m busy.

“I was a young boy during the depression. Our home was situated not far from the railroad tracks where the vagrants would ‘ride the rails.’ The men came in twos or threes to our back door for something to eat. I can never remember my mother turning those men away hungry. She would fix them a sandwich, give them a glass of milk, and send them on their way with a word of cheer, having a feeling in her heart that she had done some good.

“I was fortunate when I was a boy to have an outstanding Sunday School teacher. When she talked about the apostle Paul, we could almost hear him preaching. She made every character in the scriptures come alive. She was an unusually kind woman and let us boys know that she expected us to be gentlemen.

“In our class we had collected some money to use for a big party. One Sunday morning our teacher came to class and told us that one of our classmates would be absent—his mother had passed away. We were all very unhappy. The subject of the lesson that morning was that it is better to give than to receive. After she had presented the lesson, she talked about the hard times ahead for the absent boy’s family. ‘How would you students like to follow the Lord’s teachings?” she asked. ‘How would you feel about taking our party fund and giving it to this boy’s family as an expression of love?”

“The decision was unanimous. I remember that I was the treasurer of the class, and the teacher said to the boy’s father, ‘Brother Devenport, the class would like to make an expression of their feelings.’ Then she called on me to make an expression, and afterward I handed our party fund to him. I think that was one of the first times I saw a grown man weep. This simple act of kindness welded our class together. We learned through our own experience that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

“I would encourage the youth of the world to seek out opportunities to help other people, to do good to all, and to share what they have with others. It is the pathway to happiness. As we willingly share, we’ll strengthen our testimonies. But if we attempt to keep all good things to ourselves, we’ll lose everything.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Larry Winborg