She was curled up in the big overstuffed lift chair in front of the
television. Tears were running down her cheeks.
"What's the matter, honey? Is something wrong?"
"No, Mom, you know how sentimental I am. I was just watching The Waltons,
and I always get teary when I watch them."
"What was so special about this show?"
"Nothing really, but it was about a friend of John Boy's who was injured in
the war. He lost the use of his legs when he was in the Merchant Marines.
John Boy wrote to his family, and told them he hadn't heard from him in
quite a while. The last he had heard from him he was in the veteran's
hospital in Richmond. He asked them if they would see if they could find
anything about him. Because Mary Ellen was a nurse, and knew some of the
doctors at the vet's hospital she
volunteered to find out what she could about him. She did find him,
and after talking to him for a while she realized he had just given up on
life. The doctor told her he thought if Toby just had a place to go to get
away from the hospital setting and all the other veterans, he might improve.
Physically he was fine, but he was confined to a wheelchair. Mentally he had
given up on himself, feeling sure any gainful life he might have had was
gone now. Mary Ellen was afraid if she called her family Toby might change
his mind about going home with her, even though he had already agreed. She
packed his few belongings, and took Toby, wheelchair and all, home with her.
You know the Walton family. They made him welcome, as usual. With their help
he regained his confidence and even found a job. I don't know why I get so
teary eyed. I guess stories like that make me realize how lucky I really
"Now that you've had your cry, how about helping me put dinner on
Evelyn was a pretty girl, with shoulder length, natural curly
brown hair with a red glow to it. Her face was without blemishes. She didn't
wear much make-up because her skin didn't need it. A light skiff of rouge
and some lipstick, and she was ready to face the world. A rather remarkable
thing about her face, and the one thing, above all, that attracted
attention, was her beautiful dark brown, almost black, eyes. They seemed to
sparkle, as if they were dancing to their own tune. She was only a bit of a
thing, not too tall, but shorter since her accident put her in a wheelchair.
Her mother helped her get dressed in the morning, but other than that she
was able to care for herself.
This was an exciting day for her. For the first time since the
accident she was going to face life on its terms today. She had volunteered
at the local veteran's hospital, and this would be her first day. She'd
better hurry. Don't want to be late my first day, she thought as she
maneuvered her power chair down the ramp into the kitchen where the whole
family was gathered for breakfast.
"Good morning, all. What a beautiful day."
"All ready for the big adventure?" her dad jokingly asked her.
"Ready as I'll ever be. I'm so excited. I hardly slept a wink last
night. I sure hope I do everything right."
"You'll do swell. Sis," her younger brother Buzz told her. "I wish
I was going someplace other than school today. Must be nice."
"Your time will come, Short Stuff. Don't wish your life away."
Her mother had been very quiet as Evelyn bantered with the others. "What's
the matter, Mom? Surely you're not worried about me. You know I'm a
"I know you are, Dear. I was just thinking how lonely I'll be today with you
gone. I've had you home for so long since you got out of the hospital."
"I know, Mom, but all birds leave the nest sometime, and I'm ready
to try my wings today."
Breakfast was eaten in peace, each family member deep in their own
thoughts. There was a bird on the tree branch right outside the breakfast
nook window, warbling a merry tune. Under the window was her mother's flower
patch. The flowers appeared to be smiling as the morning dew rested on
Evelyn rose, and said goodbye to her brother. "Bye Buzz. Have a
good day at school. Try to stay out of trouble."
"Goodbye, Dear. You sure you know how to handle the controls on
your van?" her dad worried.
"Yes, Daddy, you're a good teacher. Bye, Mom. Don't you be
worrying about me, hear?"
Evelyn rode up to the equipped van, unlocked the rear door, which
automatically unlocked the driver's door at the same time. She reached up
with her right arm, still sitting in her power chair, and hit the switch
that put the ramp down. When the ramp had come to a dead stop, she turned on
her power chair, and cautiously drove onto the ramp. After Evelyn was safe
inside the van the ramp automatically came to a closed position. She then
proceeded up to the driver's side, and transferred into the driver's seat.
Her keys were in her sweater pocket. She retrieved them and put the ignition
key in place, started the motor, and slowly maneuvered the van out of the
driveway. Heaving a sigh of relief, she turned towards her destination.
Looking back through the rear view mirror she noticed her parents watching
her, and gave them a toot on the horn.
The trip to the vet's hospital was uneventful and Evelyn was very
relaxed as she deftly operated the hand controls in her van. She really had
great parents. They had gotten her this specially equipped van even before
she was discharged from the hospital. They were absolutely sure she would
return to having a normal life. They had the faith and that faith never
wavered. Her church family was just as anxious to make her life as normal as
possible, including putting a handicap ramp to make the church accessible.
When she tried to thank them they merely said "We should have done it long
ago. Everybody should find the church accessible, whether they are in a
wheelchair or not."
It wasn't long before Evelyn arrived at her destination. She
parked in the handicap spot, put her handicap sign on the rear view mirror,
and reversed her actions to leave the van. After she locked the van, she
made her way up the sidewalk, and entered the hospital lobby through the
automatic doors. As she entered the doors she couldn't help but realize how
important automatic doors are to a wheelchair bound person. Doors are the
one thing I can't handle very well, she thought as she motored up to the
"May I help you?" the grey haired lady behind the desk asked her.
"Yes, please. My name is Evelyn Stofford, and this is my first day
as a volunteer. Can you please direct me?"
"My name is Mrs. Wilson, but you may call me Elizabeth. I'll do
better than that. I'll take you there myself."
Well, Evelyn thought, if everybody is this friendly I should have
an easy time of it.
Soon they were at a door with the words Director of Volunteers on
it. Mrs. Wilson went before her, opened the door, and Evelyn followed her
in. Sitting behind the desk was a young woman about her own age. Evelyn
introduced herself, thanked Elizabeth, and waited for the young woman behind
the desk to speak.
"Hello Evelyn. My name is Billie Archer. For your starting
assignment we have placed you in the ward with the amputees. Most of them
are adjusting, but you'll find a few bitter ones. Those are the ones we're
hoping you can help."
As she and Miss Archer made their way to the elevator that would take them
to the amputee ward, Evelyn said a quick silent prayer. "Please Lord. Help
me have faith that I can do this and the faith to prove it to these
fellows." Thus undergirded, when she went through the swinging doors, she
had a smile on her face. Miss Archer introduced her to the charge nurse.
"Mrs. Able, this is Miss Stofford. She is your new volunteer."
"Please call me Evelyn."
"I'm truly grateful to have you, Evelyn. I hope you stay longer than the
two or three that were here. Most young people don't know how to cope with
such injuries as these men have."
"That's probably true, Mrs. Able. Even though I didn't lose a limb
in my accident, I could have. I think I know something about how they feel.
As for me staying, I have something to prove to myself. I'll be here for at
least as long as it takes for me to do that."
"Very well then. Let me introduce you to these men. We don't use
last names here. We try to make them feel like they are at home, or at least
among friends. Scotty, this is Evelyn. She is our new volunteer."
"Hi, Evelyn. Glad to know you."
As Evelyn and Mrs. Able went from one bed to another Evelyn tried
to remember something about each patient so she could place them again. Then
they came to a bed where the patient was lying with his face turned away
from them. Mrs. Able spoke quietly to him. "Freddy, I'd like you to meet
Evelyn, our new volunteer."
As he turned toward them Evelyn was shocked by the empty look in
his eyes. "I don't know why a cripple would volunteer in this place."
"Freddy, that wasn't very nice."
"What do I have to be nice about? Just tell me that."
"Please don't give him a hard time, Mrs. Able. I am a cripple but
only in body. One of these days Freddy will come to realize that."
"I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you," Freddy growled, as he
turned his face away from them again.
Mrs. Able and Evelyn were kept busy for a stretch as Mrs. Able showed
Evelyn the ropes of running the floor, and explained her future
responsibilities in the ward. It seemed like only minutes when it was 4
p.m., and Mrs. Able and Evelyn were off duty.
"Where is your car parked?" Mrs. Able asked Evelyn, as they walked out of
the hospital together.
"Over there in the handicap spot."
"Do you mind if I walk with you?"
"No, I'd like the company."
As they went to their respective cars Mrs. Able said to Evelyn "How did you
like your first day as a volunteer?"
"I liked it real well, but the look in Freddy's eyes was very disturbing. I
can't seem to get him off my mind."
"Don't let it worry you, Evelyn. If you let every little thing get to you
end up being despondent yourself. Then you wouldn't be any good to any of
"I won't, Mrs. Able, but I wish there was something I could do for him."
By this time Evelyn had arrived at her van. She said to Mrs. Able
"Goodbye. I'll see you in the morning. Have a nice evening." and put her key
in the rear door of her van, preparing for the return trip home.
The family was waiting for her in the driveway as she drove in.
"Hey, what's this? A welcome home for the prodigal? Where's the fatted
calf?" she joked, laughing.
"We just wanted to see how your day went," rejoined her mother.
"I didn't. I just wanted to see the scratches on the van," Buzz
"Come on. Let's go in. We can hear all about her day while we eat
supper," her dad added, always eager to eat some of his wife's good cooking.
After eating and enjoying some chit chat, her mother said to
Evelyn "Now tell us about your day."
"Well, first off, I had no trouble with the van, going or coming.
I told you were a good teacher, "Evelyn smiled at her dad. "My supervisor
is going to be Mrs. Able. At least for the time being I'm assigned to the
amputee ward. For the most part the boys seem well adjusted but there's
one - his name is Freddy - he is so bitter. You can see his lack of interest
in his eyes. I hope after a while he and I can at least be friends. He must
not have a Christian background if he has that attitude."
Following dinner Evelyn dried the dishes while her mother washed.
After the lights were out in the kitchen, Evelyn said to her mother "I think
I'll go to my room. By the time I do my devotions it will be time for bed."
"Need any help?"
"No, I can manage. Going to have to do it by myself someday, and
there's no time like the present."
"All right. Good night then, but if you need any help, just
holler. I'll just be in the living room with your dad."
Once in her room, Evelyn picked up her book of Bible promises. She
remembered a friend gave the book to her when she was having a down day in
the hospital after the accident. She had enjoyed reading the book, and often
picked it up when she had a problem, like right now with Freddy.
As she read from the Promises about hope the final prayer gave her
pause. "Lord, you alone gave me hope." All of a sudden out loud she said "I'
ve got it. I'm always getting those things in the email all the time that
are supposed to give you a chuckle. Most of the time they do. I think I'll
read some of those to the men in the amputee ward. Maybe, just maybe, it
might loosen the men up. Maybe gradually I can get Freddy to see there is
hope in life. I know he's bitter. I might have been that way after my
accident if I hadn't had such loving parents and my friends from the church.
There has to be a way for me to make Freddy less despondent."
With those thoughts in her mind she said her prayers and
transferred herself to the bed. Her thoughts just before she fell asleep
were on Freddy. I can help him, with God's help, I know I can. She drifted
off to sleep, a smile on her face.
The next day Evelyn was up earlier than usual, eager to get to her
volunteer duties. When she entered the breakfast area she noticed she had
beaten her dad and brother to the table. That in itself was weird. When it
was time for food Buzz was always first to the table. "Morning, Mom. Where
"They'll be along. They're not late, you're earlier than usual."
"Mom, there is one of the patients in the amputee section at the
hospital who is bitter - about his amputation and life in general. I have
been trying to think of a way to help him. I know I can't just offer to help
him. He doesn't know me and, at this point, I don't think he wants to know
me. You know all those jokes and stories people send me on the internet? I
normally just delete those I don't want to send on. I am thinking I might
take the better ones and read to the fellows as a group. I'm thinking I
might be able to get Freddy to loosen up a bit. What do you think?"
"Why is this so important to you?"
"I realize my recovery after my accident was due to you and Dad
and my church friends and also my own faith. But what if I hadn't had that
help? What would I feel like if I had actually lost a leg instead of them
being paralyzed? I owe it to God to help someone else if I can. Everybody is
not as fortunate as I have been."
"That's a good way to look at it. Since this is your sole purpose
in helping this person you call Freddy I really think you should try. I wish
you good luck. Don't forget though. It might not be as easy as you think. It
'll take time. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day."
While Evelyn and her mother were talking her dad and brother came
to the table for breakfast, and the conversation turned to plans for the
day. Following breakfast Evelyn put on her sweater and headed for her van.
This time she knew where to go on her own. She nodded to
Elizabeth, that nice grey lady who had helped her yesterday, and went
directly to the amputee ward. "Good morning, Mrs. Able. How are you today?"
"I'm glad to see you decided to come back."
"Why? Did you think I wouldn't?"
"Well, we haven't been having too much luck with volunteers. They
come once or twice, then we never see them again."
"They weren't as interested as they might have been. I have
something to prove to myself." That said, Evelyn turned towards her 'boys'
as they were identified in her mind. "Good morning, all. I trust you had a
good night's rest. I really didn't get time to more than meet all of you
yesterday. Today I'd like to get to know you better. She headed to Scotty's
bedside. "How are you today, Scotty?"
He turned towards her and replied "I'm doing just great, Evelyn. When I go
to therapy this afternoon they are going to start training me to learn to
transfer from my bed to the wheelchair by myself."
"That's great. It won't be easy at first and you might get frustrated but it
will come with time. One of these days doing it will become second nature to
you. You just have to realize you can't let it get you down. If you think
it, you can do it."
She proceeded to the next bed where a red curly head made a contrast to the
white sheets. "Hi there. Your nickname wouldn't by any chance be Red, would
"How'd you guess?"
"When I was in school I had a classmate with red hair like yours. Everybody
called her Pinky. She didn't look like a 'Pinky' to me so I always called
her Doris, her given name. You look like a 'Red' to me. Do you mind if I
call you that?"
"No, I don't mind. Call me anything, just don't call me late for supper," he
There were ten beds in all, and Evelyn stopped at each one, getting to know
the patients. As she arrived at Freddy's bed she spoke cheerfully to him.
"And how are you this morning, Freddy?"
His head was buried under the covers as he said a muffled "Morning."
"Come on, Freddy. Poke your head out and let's talk."
"I haven't anything to talk about."
"Sure you do, Freddy. How about telling me about your family?"
With obvious reluctance he pushed the sheet away from his face and sullenly
spoke "There's my mother and two sisters. My dad walked out on us when I was
With those few words Evelyn found out part of the reason for some
of his bitterness. "Does your Mom ever get here to see you?"
"No, she's working all the time and she doesn't want to leave my sisters
alone. They're good girls, but Mom doesn't want to take any chances by
leaving them alone."
"I can certainly understand that. How about a girl friend?"
"I had one but I haven't heard from her since I lost my leg."
"Have you written to her?"
"Oh, I can't do that."
"Why? I thought you lost your leg. I didn't know your arms and
hands were paralyzed."
"You just don't understand."
"Understand what? I don't think you're being fair, not even giving her a
chance to make up her own mind. Well, I guess I'd better get on to the other
boys. I'm going to read everybody a short story. You're welcome to share
with us, if you care to." With that said, Evelyn scooted away.
When she got back to the nurses station Mrs. Able grinned at her."
I see you were talking to Freddy."
"Yes, I was. That fellow has some heavy duty worries. I didn't
stay too long. I want him to learn to trust me before I try to help him. I
think I'm going to read all the boys a short story. If they seem to be
receptive I thought maybe I'd do it on a regular basis. Do you that would be
okeh? Are any of these fellows able to transfer out of their beds into their
"Most of them are. Some of them are, but won't."
Evelyn went to the center of the room, and, looking from one to the other of
the fellows, she said "I want all those who can, to transfer out of their
beds into their chairs and gather round me as best you can. I'm going to
read you a story that hopefully will put a smile on your faces. Those who
can't get out of bed don't worry about hearing me. I've never been known to
need a megaphone."
She waited patiently while the men transferred to their chairs,
and came towards her. She noticed Scotty, Red and Freddy were the only ones
who did not transfer. I must ask Mrs. Able if Freddy can't or won't get out
of bed, she thought, as she watched the others approach.
When everything became relatively quiet Evelyn began to read. "This story I
am going to read is about Maxine, who is going to pass along some of her own
words of wisdom. First off she tells us her rule for driver safety - I can'
t use the cell phone in the car. I have to keep my hands free for making
gestures. Now, I personally don't like housework, but I think her rule for
housework is pretty cool. I do my housework in the nude. It gives me the
incentive to clean the mirrors very quickly. Maxine apparently doesn't like
to take care of the lawn because she recommends a good mower, and that mower
should be muscular and shirtless."
She continued, pleased to see everybody was hanging on her words.
"Maxine has this to say about body piercing. I'd get my tongue pierced but I
still have a bit of brain left in my head, and I don't want the little bit I
have left to escape. Now listen up, fellows, while Maxine tells you what her
idea of a perfect man is. She says all she's looking for is a guy who'll do
what she wants, when she wants, for as long as she wants and then go away.
She compares the perfect guy to a Dust Buster. She wants him charged and
ready to go when she wants him. Maxine's performance at work has improved
drastically. She can now nail a coworker with a paper clip shot from a
rubber band at 20 yards. I think you'll agree that's quite a feat. And
finally Maxine's take on aging - take every birthday with a grain of salt
accompanied by a margarita."
When Evelyn concluded the story she said to the men collectively "Now it's
time for lunch. Those of you in your chairs might as well stay seated until
you finish lunch."
When she went back to the desk Mrs. Able said "My, Evelyn. You just created
a small miracle. They're still staying in their chairs. I've never seen them
eat from their chairs."
"I think if they have something to take their mind off themselves you'll
start to see a big difference. I'll go for lunch after they eat in case they
need any help. Dropping food when you're sitting in a wheelchair is almost a
given. I still do it after all this time. Why don't you go for lunch, Mrs.
Able? I'll stay until you get back."
The rest of the day went smoothly. Evelyn didn't single out Freddy to
talk to. She wanted to give him time to get to know her better. She was
pleased to hear the men converse with each other while they ate. Yesterday
you could have heard a pin drop during lunch hour. Reading to them might be
a key to reach them, she thought. She hoped it would also be the key to
unlock Freddy's mind.
She was anxious to get home that evening to relate her
accomplishments during the day to her folks. After washing the travel dust
from her hands, she joined the family already gathered at the dinner table.
"You should see the red hair on one of the fellows I met in the ward today.
I asked him if I could call him Red. I don't even know his proper first
name. He hasn't been there long. He hasn't even started his transfer
training yet. Scotty, one of the fellows I met yesterday, started his
transfer training this afternoon. Freddy didn't get out of bed either, but I
tend to think that's because he didn't want to. I had all the rest transfer
to their chairs while I told them a short story, then I suggested they stay
up to eat their lunch. It seemed to work out real well.'
Buzz said, rather smugly, "We had basketball try outs today for
the JV team and I got chosen as guard."
Dad nodded his head and agreed guard was a good position for him
since he was so tall. "Remember though, practice is important. It's also
important to be a team member. A team is only strong if the members play
together. So many times I watch sports on TV and one player thinks he's the
big cheese. That shouldn't be."
"Did you play sports in school, Dad?"
"Not until I was in high school and then I went out for football.
I injured my ham string the second game, and sat on the bench the rest of
the season. The next year I didn't try out for football. Instead I took up
drama. I found out that was safer."
"How about you, Mom? Did you play sports?"
"No, I tried out for cheer leader is all, and didn't make the cut. Then I
joined the drama club. As a matter of fact, that's where I met your dad. He
didn't pay any attention to me at first, but, boy, I was crazy over him. It
took him the whole term to even notice me. That was okeh though, I would
have waited till doomsday for him, if that's what it took."
Life by this time had developed a pleasant pattern. She went to the amputee
ward five times a week, rain or shine. As she was driving through the rain
one morning she said to herself I wonder if these rainy days are ever going
to let up. By the time I get in the hospital doors I feel like I've grown
fins. Thank goodness there is a portico at the entrance. At least I get to
shake the rain off my umbrella so I don't drip all over the reception area.
Regardless of the weather she always greeted her boys with a smile.
One day the following week she assembled the boys around her in
their wheelchairs. By this time Red had progressed far enough with his
transfer therapy he was able to join the others.
When they were all gathered she took out that days story called 'Fast Food"
and started to read.
Hey Mom," one of my kids asked the other day, "What was your favorite
fast food when you were growing up?"
"We didn't have fast food when I was growing up," I informed him. "All the
food was slow."
"C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?"
"It was a place called 'at home," I explained. "Grandma cooked every day
and when Grandpa got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room
table, and if I didn't like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit
there until I did like it." At this point Evelyn's reading was interrupted
by the loud guffaws coming from some of the group. After it had quieted
down, she continued.
" But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if
I figured his system could have handled it:
Some parents NEVER owned their own home, wore Levis, set foot on a golf
course, traveled out of the country or had a credit card. In their later
years they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was good
only at Sears
Roebuck. Or maybe it was Sears AND Roebuck. Either way, there is no
Roebuck anymore. Maybe he died. My parents never drove me to soccer
practice. This was mostly because we never had heard of soccer. I had a
bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow).
We didn't have a television in our house until I was 11, but my grandparents
had one before that. It was, of course, black and white, but they bought a
piece of colored plastic to cover the screen. The top third was blue, like
the sky, and the bottom third was green, like grass. The middle third was
red. It was perfect for programs that had scenes of fire trucks riding
across someone's lawn on a sunny day. Some people had a lens taped to the
front of the TV to make the picture look larger.
I was 13 before I tasted my first pizza. It was called "pizza pie." When I
into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down,
plastered itself against my chin and burned that, too. It's still the best
pizza I ever had.
We didn't have a car until I was 15. Before that, the only car in our family
was my grandfather's Ford. He called it a "machine." I never had a
telephone in my room. The only phone in the house was in the living room,
and it was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and
make sure some people you didn't know weren't already using the line.
Pizzas were not delivered to our home. But milk was. All newspapers were
delivered by boys, and all boys delivered newspapers. I delivered a
newspaper six days a week. It cost 7 cents a paper, of which I got to keep
2 cents. I had to get up at 4 AM every morning. On Saturday, I had to
collect the 42 cents from my customers. My favorite customers were the ones
who gave me 50 cents and told me to keep the change. My least favorite
customers were the ones who seemed to never be home on collection day.
Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the
movies. Touching someone else's tongue with yours was called French
kissing, and they didn't do that in movies. I don't know what they did in
French movies. French movies were dirty and we weren't allowed to see them.
If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to
share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don't
blame me if they bust a gut laughing. Growing up isn't what it used to be,
And I'll close with these tidbits.
Memories from a friend -
My Dad is cleaning out my grandmother's house (she died in December) and he
brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper
with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but Kati had no
idea. She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I
knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to "sprinkle"
clothes with because we didn't have steam irons.
Man, I am old.
That story seemed to please the boys. They kept up a steady flow
of conversation until lunch was delivered. By this time she didn't have to
ask them to share their eating space. They just did it and seemed to like it
Time went on. Evelyn continued to volunteer in the amputee ward, and more
and more she could sense the patients acceptance of her. Then one day, Mrs.
Able mentioned to her there was a possibility that Miss Archer might
transfer her to another ward. "I don't know if that's going to happen, but I
thought it only fair that you be advised it's possible."
Gee I hope that's not going to happen. I haven't even begun to finish what I
wanted to yet. Evelyn was deep in thought, and almost didn't hear when
Scotty spoke her name. "I know you have been concerned about Freddy. I
thought you might like to know he actually got out of bed, transferred to
his chair and came over to talk to me last night."
Evelyn was flabbergasted. "I'm so glad to hear that. Did he have
anything in particular he wanted to talk about?"
"Not really but he did mention he was enjoying your stories."
Evelyn was pleased. "I'm happy to hear that. He is so quiet I
haven't been sure he even heard the stories. Maybe if I give him a little
more time he might even talk to me."
By the time she finished talking to Scotty it was almost time for lunch.
"Gather round, young men, its time for lunch." For the first time all the
came forth, even Freddy. "After you eat and take a rest I have a special
story for you today. It's longer than the rest, but there is no way to
shorten it without losing some of the story. You'll just have to bear with
Following lunch, which was interspersed by the men joking with
Evelyn asked "Are you all ready for the story, or do you want to take a nap
To a man they wanted the story. "Now I warned you. This one is
longer, so if you want to take a rest, I'll understand. The story I am going
to read is Three Trees. I have no idea who wrote it, but I sure wish I could
write as well."
Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing
their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a
treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I
could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the
Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I
will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the
world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."
Finally the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and
straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and
look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to
them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will
always remember me."
After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a
group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he
said, "This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the
wood to a carpenter," and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy,
because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.
At the second tree, the woodsman said, "This looks like a strong
tree, I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was
happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.
When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was
frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not
One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree, so
I'll take this one", and he cut it down.
When the first tree arrived at the carpenter's, he was made into a
feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay.
This was not at all what he had prayed for.
The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His
dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end.
The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the
The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams. Then
one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed
the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The
man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger
would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew
that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the
second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out
on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong
enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and He stood
and said "Peace" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it
had carried the King of Kings in its boat.
Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried
through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. When
they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to
die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that
it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God
as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.
The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going
your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust
in God, you will be given great gifts. Each of the trees got what they
wanted, just not in the way they had imagined. We don't always know what
God's plans are for us. We just know that God's ways are not our ways, but
God's ways are always best.
Evelyn looked around as she concluded the story. "Anybody have any
Red spoke up. "If what the story says is true, why did God see fit
for us to lose our legs?"
"I don't really have the answer to that. I'm young, younger than
most of you, and I certainly don't look forward to being in a wheelchair all
my life, but that is part of God's bigger plan. It's not for me to question.
If I have the faith of a grain of mustard seed I will accept it. I'll tell
you one thing though. I have no intention of letting life go on without me.
I have lost the use of my legs, but not my faith, my heart, nor my brains.
If people don't want to see me in a wheelchair, then let them look the other
way. That's what I want to instill in each of you. You have lost a leg, but
you still have the same capacity for love you've always had, and love is the
greatest gift one person can give another. You'll have to forgive me, boys.
when I get a chance to talk about faith I always speak up. My faith helped
me recover from a bad accident, and your faith will get you through your
Several days later Mrs. Able approached Evelyn as she came in the ward. "I
hate to be the one to tell you, but you have been transferred to the
critical area, effective the first of the month. Word of how you restore
morale has gotten around, and Miss Archer thinks your talents might be of
good service to the patients in critical care. "Well, I hate to go, but I
still have time to talk to some of the patients
individually. I only have one more reading anyways. I'll miss these boys. I
have gotten attached to them. I'm glad I'm just a volunteer. I know that
attitude would be frowned on if I was a professional like you are."
"I'll hate to see you go too, Evelyn. You have been easy to work
with and the good you've done for the men is absolutely incredible."
"Please don't tell the fellows. I'll do that myself."
Evelyn did some paper work for Mrs. Able and soon it was lunch time. She
rose from the desk at the nurses' station and went to the center of the ward
and said "OK fellows. Just about time for the lunch trays. Gather round."
She watched as all of them started to assemble with a lump in her
throat. She was so proud of the improvement in the fellows. When she came
most of them were dejected and bitter. Some other than Freddy showed signs
of despondency. Now they most always had a smile and a friendly hello to the
occasional stranger who entered their midst. Her thoughts turned to Freddy.
I still have to talk to Freddy. He's not out of the woods yet.
When her own lunch was finished she once again stood before her
boys. "Today will be the last day I will be reading to you. I am being
transferred to the critical care unit soon, and I want to close by reading
you a very poignant story.
I know you'll find this different than anything I've read to you before, but
when I'm finished reading it I'm sure you'll realize why I selected this
particular bit of prose. The title is simply 'Footprints'. The composer's
name is not given.
"One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with
the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he
noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the
other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he
looked back at the
footprints. In the sand, he noticed many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed it happened at the
very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him, and he
questioned the Lord about it. Lord, you said that once I decided to follow
You, You'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't
understand why when I needed you most You would leave me.
The Lord replied "My precious, precious child, I love you and would never
leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one
set of footprints, it was then I carried you."
"You need to know, even though I'll be leaving in a few days I'll
still be here for a few days if you want to talk to me, about anything,
anything at all."
It was with a heavy heart Evelyn prepared herself for the trip
home. She would miss her boys, but she would undoubtedly make more friends
in her new post. She was always one to roll with the punches, and knew God
had different plans for her future.
The day had looked rainy and dismal when she arrived at the
hospital this morning. Now, however, the sky was clear, with just a few
clouds, and the sun was trying to shine behind a cloud in the waning hours
of the afternoon. Everything looked clean and bright following the seasonal
rain. Evelyn couldn't wait to get home to tell her Mom and Dad about the
transfer and the talk she had after reading to the boys.
Shades of yesterday. There's the folks standing in the driveway. Don't they
realize I'm a big girl now? She parked her van and motored out the back
door. "Hi, Mom. Hello, Dad. Were you watching for me? Did you think I had
an accident? You're going to have to stop worrying about me when I'm away
from home. It doesn't do any good to worry. Everything is in God's hands."
By this time they were in the house, where Evelyn saw her brother.
"Hi, Buzz. How'd school go today? Did you have basketball practice after
Yes, we had a hard one. The season opens a week from Friday, and
we have to practice hard to be ready for it."
After everybody sat down for supper Evelyn commented "Mrs. Able
told me today Miss Archer, director of volunteers, has reassigned me to the
critical care unit, starting the first of next month. Miss Archer feels I
can be an encouragement to the patients in critical care. I'll miss my boys
but I guess its time for me to move on."
Evelyn was surprised how tired she felt. It had been an emotional
day, and emotion always made her tired. She read her nightly devotions, and
the bed felt so good when she finally transferred into it.
She started the next day talking with the men on a one to one
basis. She knew talking to Freddy would be her most challenging
conversation. She put a smile of confidence on her face, even though she
didn't feel that confident. "Good morning, Freddy. Sleep well last night?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact I did. Since you have been here I seem
to have regained some of my perspective."
"Freddy, it isn't any of my business but where does your girl
"In Plattsberg, about 30 miles north of here."
"Have you thought any more about writing her?"
"She wouldn't want to hear from me."
"Why don't you give her a chance to make up her own mind? I don't
like people making decisions for me."
"Do you think she might answer if I wrote to her?"
"I can't answer for her, but I bet she will."
"Thanks, Evelyn. I guess I will. Will you mail the letter for me
on your way home?"
Gratefully Evelyn said a silent prayer of thanksgiving. What had
seemed like insurmountable odds six weeks ago had not been so hard after
She leaned over the bed before she moved on and said to Freddy
"God bless you. May God shine his countenance upon you."
Freddy gave her a small smile as she moved away, and to Evelyn it
was the most beautiful sight she had seen in a long time.
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