Ann liked living next door to Bishop Woodland. She liked to sit in the corkscrew willow tree that grew between their driveways. He was always going and coming. Whenever he did, he’d look up and say with a grin, “Be careful, Ann—I don’t want you falling out of there and cracking my driveway.”
“Why does Bishop Woodland come and go so much?” Ann asked her mother one morning.
“He’s usually going to help someone.”
“Oh, people who need food or who are unhappy, or older people who need help.”
“How does he help? He’s old himself.”
Ann’s mother laughed. “I guess he is. But he can still listen and help. Sometimes he asks other people to help, like the Relief Society or a priesthood quorum.”
“Would he help me if I had a problem?”
“Of course he would. You could talk to him anytime.”
Ann asked this because she did, in fact, have a problem. She was thinking about it the next day at recess, when Cindy, her life-long friend, said, “Let’s play at the park after school.”
Ann had already told Janie, a new friend who had just moved there that year, that she’d play soccer with her after school. “Can Janie come, too?” she whispered back to Cindy.
Cindy frowned and shrugged.
Ann felt bad. Why couldn’t her two friends like each other? She was sure they would if they just knew each other better.
As it turned out, Janie had to postpone their soccer playing and help out at home. But that didn’t solve the problem.
After dinner Ann sat in the tree and watched for the bishop’s car. When she saw it turn the corner, she scrambled down and waited for him in his driveway. He was slow getting out of the car. When he finally stood up, his eyes were pinched with pain.
“Are you OK?” Ann asked.
“It’s just my back hurting me a little,” he said. Then he smiled, and his eyes were merry again. “I see the bird has come down from the tree.”
“Bishop, I need to talk to you, please.”
“This sounds serious. Let’s sit here on the front steps for a minute.” He lowered himself carefully onto the step. “Look at all those leaves!” The front lawn was covered with red and brown maple leaves and a few yellow ones from the willow tree. “I don’t know how I’ll get them raked up with this back. Sister Woodland can’t do it any more, either.” He turned to Ann. “But we’re here to talk about your problem, not mine. Tell me about it.”
“My two best friends don’t like each other. They don’t really know each other, because Janie is new. But they don’t want to do things with all three of us together. If I go with one, the other is mad at me. Maybe they’ll both get so mad that I won’t have either of them as my friend.”
The bishop put his chin in his hand. He thought a minute. “Maybe you could do something fun together, something at which they’d have to get to know each other better.”
“Maybe a party?”
“Good idea, But don’t watch TV or videos. Play games or do something where you work together.”
“Like making cookies or something?”
“That might work, especially if you ask the Lord’s help. A good, earnest prayer might help your plans.”
“OK, I’ll try it!” Ann jumped up. “Thank you, Bishop. I hope your back feels better.”
The bishop smiled, shook her hand, then went into his house.
“Who helps Bishop Woodland when he has a problem?” Ann asked her mother the next day.
“That depends on his problem. Why?”
“His back hurts him.”
“I know. He had surgery on it a while back. I think it’s getting better, though. I guess anyone who loves him and sees a way to do it would be the one to help.”
Ann did a lot of planning before she said anything to Cindy or Janie about a party. When she learned that the Woodlands were going away for the day on Saturday, she knew that that afternoon would be perfect. She talked to her mother about her plans, and she talked to the Lord about softening her friends’ hearts and about helping her say the right things. Then she talked to Cindy and Janie separately and told them about raking the bishop’s leaves and then having pizza.
“Bishop Woodland helped my dad get a job when he was out of work,” Cindy said. “Sure, I’ll come.”
Janie didn’t know Bishop Woodland because she was in a different ward, but she said, “Why not? I love pizza, and it sounds like fun.”
On Saturday afternoon Cindy and Janie both arrived promptly at four o’clock. They glared at each other but said hi.
“Let’s get to work!” Ann suggested, trying to sound cheerful and assured. They picked up the rakes and leaf bags she had gotten out and went to the bishop’s yard.
Each girl started in a separate corner of the yard and worked silently. Soon they had a big pile of leaves in the middle of the lawn. Ann looked at the pile. “I can’t resist!” she said, jumping into the middle of it.
Cindy laughed. “I was just thinking the same thing.” She jumped in too.
“Well, why not?” Janie drawled, joining them. The three of them rolled around and threw leaves at each other and laughed.
“Janie has the longest hair,” Cindy said. “She can be the leaf queen.” She and Ann wove handfuls of leaves into Janie’s hair. Janie smiled regally. Then they all filled Cindy’s hair and Ann’s. “We’re leaf princesses,” Cindy said.
They lay back in the leaves. The sun was going down, and the sky glowed with pink and gold. “My grandpa calls it ‘the gloaming’ when the sky looks like this,” Janie remarked.
“My mother says that, too,” Cindy said.
The three girls lay in the leaves and talked about their mothers and other things for a while. Suddenly Ann jumped up. “We have to hurry—I’m starving! Besides, it will soon be dark.” They held the sacks open for each other and stuffed them full of leaves. Janie swept the walk while Cindy and Ann carried the bags around by the bishop’s garden. “Janie’s fun,” Cindy said as they walked into the backyard.
Ann smiled. “I know. And so are you.”
Back at Ann’s house, they hurried to wash up so they could eat. After everyone was full, they baked the cookies that Ann’s mother had mixed. Then they arranged a basket of apples and cookies for Ann to put on the bishop’s front porch just before the Woodlands came home. Cindy decorated the note that Janie wrote to put in the basket: “From some people who love you.”
That night, Ann thanked Heavenly Father for helping her friends become friends—and for being able to help yet another friend, the bishop.