(First published in the Airdrie City View on March 24, 2016)
A goose named Harold helped change the life of one girl growing up on a southern Saskatchewan farm and now, 33 years after Harold’s death, he is helping change lives around the world.
Airdrie resident Beverly Phillips Lundgren, an optician who has embarked on 27 eye projects with Medical Ministry International Canada since 1986, revived the story of Harold and how he became an integral part of her life with her first children’s book Harold the Goose Finds His Family.
She hoped his tale might inspire younger generations much like Harold inspired her, but she also hoped the proceeds from book sales would help continue her passion to help those in need around the world.
“I think it’s pretty neat that my best friend, my childhood buddy, could help now even though he is long gone,” she said.
Phillips Lundgren recalled a family of nesting geese on her farm 55 years ago. She watched as the parents and eight goslings waddled past, but remembered seeing nine eggs in the nest.
She returned and found one egg was left behind. It was warm, so she grabbed it and quickly placed it under a chicken on the farm.
“A week later he hatched out with the baby chicks and the hen thought he was her family,” Phillips Lundgren said.
After he outgrew the chicken family, quite literally, Harold began to bond with Phillips Lundgren.
Wherever she went, Harold would go. They even played a game where the two would race from the garage at one end of the yard to the granary at the other. Harold would squawk, kick his feet and flap his wings as he waited for the race to start, but as soon as it did, Phillips Lundgren said, he’d outstretch his wings and coast across the finish line.
“He always won because he was cheating,” she said with a laugh.
Her first eye project was to Mexico in 1986, three years after Harold had died. She said she felt desperate and wanted to make a difference in the world.
Phillips Lundgren said if a person has not gone on a project they cannot begin to comprehend the feeling that gratefulness of those helped elicits inside of ones self, but she said it is addicting.
“I think we go for selfish reasons now,” Phillips Lundgren said. “When you go and you can see that you can make a difference it gets to the point where you can’t not go.”
She has encouraged everyone she encounters to come on projects and many have, including several roommates who have lived with her.
Her husband, Lawrence Lundgren, is a mechanic and welder and spent his first couple trips keeping the generators going and working on electrical problems before undertaking training to fit people with artificial eyes.
When both of them fly out on a project it usually costs about $7,000 and that is becoming more difficult to raise as they get older.
“We’re low income seniors,” she said. “It’s hard to cover the expenses sometimes.”
A copy of Harold the Goose Finds His Family is available to borrow at the Airdrie Public Library and copies can be purchased directly from Phillips Lundgren by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 403-710-1791.