No-one seemed to bother with him. In fact, when the villagers encountered him they would pass hurriedly by, head down or turned away. Why would they want to associate themselves with the likes of him?
‘Him’ had a name. The local folk had nicknamed him ‘old Solo’. After all, how else would you label a virtual hermit!
Old Solo spent much of his time (he had plenty of it) indoors. Socializing wasn’t his strong point and anyway, he had no-one to socialise with. They all ignored and shunned him.
His cottage was very ‘run-down’ and in much need of restoring. Solo didn’t have two pennies to rub together. He was poor.
The rickety chimney looked ready to crumble at the slightest breeze; one of the window panes had cracked leaving a gaping hole which and had been stuffed with newspaper to stop the elements getting in, and the front door was practically devoid of paint - what was left was peeling off. The wood was crumbling along the base of the door and the water would seep into his cottage when it rained. Creature comforts had passed Old Solo by.
Solo ‘stank’ - to put it bluntly. Soap and water were strangers to him. Hygiene was not at the top of Old Solo’s priority list, but then, why should it? Who cared a jot whether he smelled nice or not?
His clothes were filthy and blackened by days, if not, weeks of dirt. His shirt collar and cuffs had formed a black ring, and the old duffle coat had a unique pattern made of years of a variety of stains.
Old Solo had a love in his life. Just the one, mind you. She was a beautiful Alsatian called Bo. Everywhere he went, Bo was sure to be at his side. She was his shadow and he loved her . You see, she gave love back in a way the local folk did not. She would look up at Solo’s face with the most endearing eyes and cuddle up to him at night, keeping each other warm.
‘Much better than humans.’ Solo thought.
He had been so hurt in the past by people, he no longer had any time for them, and hurts cause bitterness and bitterness rots the soul, if it isn’t dealt with. Solo knew all about that.
Then, one day, a pretty young woman walked up the overgrown path to the front door and knocked.
‘You’re not wanted ’ere’ growled Solo. ’so away now. Off my property!’
This young woman was not phased at all.
‘My name is Judy. I haven’t come to harm you. I just to want to give you one of my special home baked fruit cakes.’
‘What you wanna do that for?‘ retorted Solo.‘I don’t know you and no-one is ever kind to me. What makes you any different? Huh! I bet you’ve just come to gloat at me. You’ll ’ave been listening to that lot in the village and all their malicious gossip. Go away, I say,….. now!’
‘OK’ replied Judy kindly, not wanting to upset the old man any further. ‘The baking is on your front step. I’ll call again.’
‘Don’t bother’ Old Solo angrily replied. ‘I just want you off my land.’
Judy had recently moved into the village and had overheard the locals speak unkindly about Solo. She was not impressed by the way they gossiped, and believed in her heart that there is good in everyone, somewhere, and she was determined to try and break ground with this old gentleman. After all we are to love the unloved, she pondered.
The following week Judy returned to Old Solo’s cottage. Bo was barking frantically from the lounge window. Judy wondered why the dog was so agitated. Surely, she didn’t look that much of an ogre!
She knocked on the door. This time there were no retorts or angry comments. In fact, there was just silence; apart from Bo’s barking.
Something was wrong. Judy sensed it. She tried the door handle. The door was unlocked and as she opened it, she noticed Old Solo lying awkwardly on the floor of the cottage hallway, moaning in agony. 'Old Solo! Solo? Can you hear me? It's OK. I'll get help.' Judy was frantic.
‘Ohhh’ was all that Solo muttered as he writhed in pain.
Judy knew that no-one in the village was interested in him, so she knew she was the only one who could help……………..
After the ambulance left with Solo on board, Judy stretched out a welcoming hand to Bo. Bo was forlorn. Where was her only friend gone? Judy lovingly patted Bo’s head.
‘Until Old Solo is back on his feet, you are coming home with me, Bo. He’ll get better soon..’
Two weeks had gone by. Judy had visited Old Solo in hospital as often as she could, even when Solo was moody and un -communicative.. Gradually, he warmed to this young woman. He had tried so hard to loathe her, just like he loathed all those others who were nasty to him. But this girl was different. Questions started to buzz around in his head. Who is this woman? Why is she so kind? Why has she been so helpful?
He knew he had to find out.
Judy had been busy getting Solo’s cottage spick and span for his return. She painted up the front door. She had managed to get a plank of wood and nail it across the area that was rotting away. Even as a temporary measure, it would keep the water and draughts out. She stocked up the food cupboard and had washed all the bedding. The cottage had been spring-cleaned from top to bottom. A fresh vase of flowers sat proudly and colourfully on the sill of the cottage lounge window.
Bo was a very happy dog too. She had been treated to a beautiful new warm bed!
The sound of a car engine was heard as a vehicle pulled up outside the front door.
As he peered out of the car window, Old Solo was astonished! His overgrown garden had been beautifully transformed. All the weeds were gone and the grass had been mown. A couple of pot plants graced the cottage door. The cracked window was gone and a new pane in it’s place.
Solo couldn’t speak! He had become totally overwhelmed by such kindness. Kindness that he had never known.
Judy opened the front door widely.
‘Hello Solo. Welcome home!’ She ran towards him pushed her arm through his and walked him up the garden path.
Judy detected a tear running down his cheek. ‘Solo.’ she spoke with such kindness in her voice. ‘There are people who do care. I care. My Father cares too. You know, my Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills and he cares for you too. That’s why I am here.’
Solo stopped in his tracks looked at her and replied, ’ I didn’t realise you came from such a rich family. No matter, you don’t seem lofty like some rich folk can be, and I guess I owe you a thank you , for all you ‘ave done’
Judy started to laugh. ’Solo. I do not come from a rich earthly family. My father was an ordinary working man and my mum had to stay at home and look after six kids! The father I am talking about is God my Father. I have found Someone that will always be there for me through thick and thin; through every trial; through all my joys too. He has taught me that I need to love the un-loved and he brought me to you, to tell you he loves you too.’
Solo had never heard anyone speak this way before. Was she completely mad? Or maybe she spoke the truth?
Either way, he knew that he had made a real friend.
‘I am not sure about your Father yet, however I do know that all of this has to be the best gift I have ‘ave ever been given. That someone like you should come along and help a grumpy old soul like me, why! this must be just what it’s like when someone receives a birthday gift. In fact, it may not be my birthday, but this is the best gift I have ever had. Maybe, you will tell me more about this ‘Father’ of yours. If he loves me too, I would like to know more.’
‘Well,’ Judy answered, ‘Solo, you know the very, very best gift anyone can receive is the gift of Jesus, My Father’s Son, - into their lives. A spiritual birthday gift. Come on, I’ll put the kettle on and we’ll talk some more!’
'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)
'In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.'John 3:3 (NIV)