A kind of miracle took place one hot Saturday in August last year in the little town of Santaquin, Utah. It was something tike the tree that grew in Brooklyn and a lot like the old-time barn raisings.
When the morning dawned on that special day, the little house stood there somewhat forlorn, even though it was newly built. It looked kind of desolate standing there on a pile of rocks with a few weeds poking out here and there but not much else green around. The whole scene was barren.
By late afternoon the house had a whole yard to enclose it. There were some trees and shrubs, a brand-new fence, and a lawn seeded into the new top soil that had been spread and rolled. There were even flowers blooming in neat little flower beds next to the house.
The people who had done the work were standing around looking at the transformation that had taken place. There was a warm glow of satisfaction and a soft, tender spirit, and more than a tear or two as they leaned on their shovels and surveyed what they had done that day.
It was an act of pure love and the result was magic.
The people who live in the house are Don and Clara Goudy and their seven children—four boys and three girls.
Until recently the Goudys had lived in the East Millcreek 14th Ward of the Salt Lake Mt. Olympus Stake. And as one neighbor, Doris Peterson, said: “They fit right in, and felt at home, and were very loved.”
The people in the ward describe Clara as one of the “bravest, strongest women, we know.” “She has been so diligent in spiritual things.” “A fantastic person.” “We all loved her.”
They remember Don when he first came into the ward. He was a “vital young man, a hard and willing worker.”
Then the ravages of disease began to take their toll on Don and, suddenly, Don and Clara had some hard things to face and some difficult decisions to make.
Don could no longer work hard to provide for those he loved. He became progressively worse, and at length he couldn’t work at all. Don and Clara decided to take their family back to Santaquin where they had been raised. There Clara’s mother had a piece of land on which a home could be built. It seemed the right place to assume the heavier load that was coming to her. And she could be near her 78-year-old mother.
In the hearts of far-sighted Aaronic Priesthood MIA leaders and a wise bishop was the knowledge that in service young people grow. Ideas for service were constantly being discussed. Young men and women were continually involved in the discussions.
Then three young men—candidates for the Eagle Scout Progress Award—had an idea. Could they take a lawn down to the Goudy’s new home? They knew Brother Goudy couldn’t put it in, and maybe Sister Goudy could use their help.
John Benson, the Aaronic Priesthood MIA young men’s president, encouraged the boys.
When first approached, Clara was a little reluctant. She and Don had always taken care of themselves and their own. What they had, they had shared. It had been enough.
But now the prospects for immediate landscaping were slim. Clara thought about that, but mostly she thought about the teachings of the gospel. “Yes,” she thought, “this is the gospel at work.” And then she told them they could come.
So Brother Benson and the three boys, Ted Bullen, Robert Purcell, and Gary Buehner, went down to Santaquin to see their friends, to plan out a yard, and to see what the project would cost.
It was decided that Gary would take care of fencing the property. Ted would see that the lawn was planted, and Robert volunteered to do the shrubbery, trees, and planting of flowers.
They measured the yard. They also had Sister Goudy’s desires in mind. Next they each went to experts to get some first-class help in planning the landscaping.
With the plans completed they proceeded to line up help and materials. Each boy organized his own project and work crew. As they worked the enthusiasm and support mounted.
Others in the ward wanted to help. They donated funds. They dug up shrubs and trees, taking them from their own yards. They went to the state capitol and were given some flats of flowers that were surplus.
As the project grew Bishop Lewis Farr counseled his people to work with the young people on this project as fathers and mothers would work with their own sons and daughters, assisting not only with money but also with physical labor on the planting day.
As Bob Purcell put it: “We had made our plans in detail, and it didn’t take too long when we got down there.”
Most of the materials and hand tools came with them from Salt Lake City, but several yards of top soil were needed. Contact was made with the bishop of the Santaquin Ward, and he saw to it that the top soil was delivered the night before. The Santaquin people also provided a tractor.
Brother Benson and the three boys went down early on the day of the project. He had grown up on a farm and knew how to handle the tractor. So with the boys directing, he spread the top soil, and by 7:30 A.M. they were ready for the work group. Between 50 and 60 people—youths and their parents and leaders—came down to help. A little later in the morning five or six people from the Santaquin Ward brought over their power tools and joined in.
Under Bob’s direction they dug holes and planted the shrubs and the trees. They planted the flowers, and the girls built a little stone path through the grass and edged the flower planting area with rocks Clara had been saving.
Gary and his crew dug post holes and cemented the poles in place for the chain link fence. They also prepared the framework, put up the cedar fence, and stained it.
At the same time Ted and his crews were rolling and planting the lawn, others were covering it with peat moss and wetting it down.
Then suddenly they were through. They had finished everything on their blueprints, and there was an entire yard growing.
As Alice Buehner, Aaronic Priesthood MIA young woman’s president, reported: “Not a whole day and it was accomplished. We just stood around and gazed at it.”
Then Don Goudy, who is now almost bedfast, came out of the house and walked out onto the porch. It was a tender moment as he looked around at what his friends had done for him. He said simply, “Thank you for all you’ve done.”
As Sister Buehner said: “It made me want to cry. I was really deeply moved.”
In addition to helping with the yard, the Wayne Ottleys who live in the ward went into the house and draped it.
Brother Benson summed it up this way: “By 3:00 there was a new yard. It was really an enjoyable day. And very exciting.”
Because of the spirit that was there that day, young and old felt a new commitment to service, and the spirit was catching. Since then the Santaquin Ward itself has turned out to put in lawns for two other families in need within their little town.
On the way back to Salt Lake City the workers stopped for a swim, but nobody seems to recall that. When you ask the young people about the experience, this is what they say:
Susan Horman: “When we left it looked really special. Flowers everywhere and trees … it was a good feeling.”
Steve Farr: “At first I didn’t think it would be so neat to just waste a day down there, but when we finally finished, it was really neat. It sure looked good.”
Karen Horman: “It was fun. I would gladly do another project like that. They were really happy we came, and they were really sorry when we had to leave.”
Sister Buehner evaluates: “Our young people felt very responsible. It was a real growing experience.”
The three boys who planned the whole project and directed its execution were most explicit.
Gary summed it all up this way: “It turned out pretty fun. I’d probably do it again. We knew that they needed the help.”
Ted declared: “The Goudys are some of my best friends. I’ve talked to them several times since. They said how great it was and how thankful they were. It was a testimony builder to work on something like that. It wasn’t just completing an Eagle project, but it was helping someone and feeling good about that.”
Bob reported: “I enjoyed it. I enjoy helping others. I guess that’s what it’s all about really, both Scouts and the Church. It was worth it. I know that much.”
“This was a spiritual experience for our young people,” Brother Benson declared. “In my estimation the only types of experiences that don’t get old are spiritual experiences. Our young people tasted of that at the Goudys, and they are anxious to have that renewed.”
But for the young people Bob summed it up best: “I’m just glad that we did it.”