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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)

TITLE: Sage with a Hint of Rosemary
By Shanti Singh


The cold air sent a shiver down my spine that rivaled the ice inside my stony heart. I’ve been on the streets for three years, and no one in the world cares whether I live or die. I’m all alone, without friends or family. I live under a bridge, along with a few other homeless people. Even though we are all in the same plight, none of us trust each other, so conversations are sparse, and friendships nonexistent.

Once in awhile people nod as they pass by, but most pretend not to see me. They treat me like I’m invisible, someone not worth noticing. That’s fine with me. I’ve been alone for so long, I don’t want anybody’s help.

“Would you like some soup?” a woman asked, interrupting my thoughts.

“I don’t need your pity,” was my terse response.

“It’s cold today. I thought you might want something hot to eat. By the way, my name is Teresa. What’s yours?”


“Nice to meet you, Julie. Here, let me pour some soup for you. It’s chicken noodle, my grandmother’s recipe. It’s perfect for a day like today.”

In spite of my protest, Teresa unscrewed the lid of her old-fashioned red plaid thermos, and poured me a mug of soup.

The wonderful aroma of fresh, homemade soup that swirled toward my nostrils caused my stomach to rumble.

“Is that sage I smell?”

“Yes, with a hint of rosemary. And the noodles are made from scratch.”

I eagerly held out my hands to receive the mug of steaming soup. I hadn’t had a hot meal in, well, three years. The soup warmed me and began to melt the ice in my heart as it traveled from my mouth down toward my stomach.

“Listen, I know a place you can stay. There’s no cost, and it’s safe and comfortable.”

“No thanks. I’ve lived here three years now, and I kind of like it” I said as I pulled my frayed , dirty wool coat closer to me, and scooted away from her.

“Julie, please let me help you. It’s supposed to snow tonight, and I can’t bear the thought of you spending the night out here in the cold. If you don’t like the shelter, you can leave in the morning. Deal?”

Next thing I knew, Teresa and I began to walk, side by side to the shelter.

I expected the shelter to be dirty, with wall to wall cots, so I was surprised when I walked into a small, but inviting living room, with bright yellow gingham curtains. A blazing fire that crackled in an old wood stove added warmth.

In the corner, a woman with two missing teeth, and gray frizzy hair played cards with a woman dressed in a business suit. No one but me seemed to notice they were an odd pair. Another woman sat in the corner, crocheting a pastel green baby blanket. A young woman who nursed and rocked a baby as she sang a sweet lullaby completed the group.

“Hey everyone, I’d like you to meet my new friend, Julie.”

“Hi Julie, welcome!” they all chimed together.

“I’m sure you’re tired. Let me take you to your room.”

Instead of the dingy cot I expected, there was a bed with a handmade quilt, and big fluffy pillows. As I ran my hand along the blue and yellow log-cabin design, thoughts of happier times in my grandma’s house came to mind Unbidden tears rolled down my dirt crusted face, and splashed down onto my coat. Teresa pulled me into a warm embrace and held me tight.

“There’s hope in Jesus, you know” she whispered gently in my ear.

She then helped me remove my coat, and handed me a thick, soft, lavender towel, and freesia-scented body wash, and led me to the bathroom so I could take a shower.

“Take as long as you want; there’s plenty of hot water, and everyone else has had their shower for the day.”

When my shower was complete, we sat down on my bed together, and she began to gently comb out the tangles in my wet hair.

“Who pays you to do this?” I blurted.

“No one pays me. I do it for love. You see, I’m a volunteer. I’ve chosen to help others, because once, Julie, I was just like you. I lived on the street, until a volunteer reached out with the love of Jesus, and rescued me. Maybe someday you’ll be a volunteer, too!”

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This article has been read 778 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ryan Tribble11/30/06
Great title! You especially did an amazing job with the first paragraph, in describing the setting. Both the title and the first paragraph definitely drew me in. I was chilled on the street, and warmed with Teresa’s heart. Great ending!
Angela Bailey11/30/06
This made me want to find this shelter and volunteer with them! That's how ALL shelters should be and this article makes me even want to start one in case there isn't one like it. The idea of precious bedding, the lush towel, and the cozy fire for those who have so little is a beautiful contrast, and worthy not only of writing about, but also of acting upon. I really enjoyed this!
Joanne Sher 12/01/06
This is just beautifully told. Your characterization is wonderful and the story so heart-warming. I forgot I was reading in beginners!
Sara Harricharan 12/01/06
Great title! Love your opening paragraph. The story flowed fairly well, I wish I could have known just a tad bit more about both characters though.
dub W12/01/06
This is way beyond the category. So well written, so much embedded meaning. Hardly a thing I would change. Thank you for sharing this piece.
Chuck Livermore12/02/06
Your story is so descriptive that I wondered if you had any real-life experience either as a homeless person or as someone that works with them. Very well written. I felt like I was there.
Donna Powers 12/03/06
Oh, this is wonderful. There is as much warmth in this story as in that soup. I really enjoyed this one! Excellent work!
Amy Michelle Wiley 12/03/06
I won't be surprised if you move up a level soon. Great job and well written with only a few minor typos.
Myrna Noyes12/04/06
Great first paragraph! It really set the scene for the heartwarming story to follow!
Jan Ackerson 12/04/06
Wonderful story, one of the best this week.
Marty Wellington 12/04/06
Delightful story; warmed me to the bone. You did a wonderful job of drawing the reader into this place of love. Thanks for sharing.
James Clem 12/04/06
Wow! Awesome!
Your storytelling skills are excellent. You seriously need to move up at least one level.
Good beginning, solid message, good dialogue and fully on topic.
Marilee Alvey12/04/06
What a pleasant, easy to read story. The images made ME feel toasty and warm! You've done a great job here!
Catrina Bradley 12/05/06
Your writing transorted me, and I was there with the characters. Wonderful, excellent job.
william price12/06/06
Whew! Very, very nice. Excellent job. God bless.
Debbie Sickler12/06/06
I like your title and enjoyed your entry. Little details like the sage and Freesia scented body wash add a lot to your story. :)
Marie Fieldman12/06/06
This drew me in well, I could really feel for Juilie.(:
Cheri Hardaway 12/06/06
Just beautiful! And I love the title! Great work. Blessings, Cheri
Pat Guy 12/06/06
Okay - this better make it to the top ten.

It just better - that's all I have to say.

Besides - Wow!
Debbie OConnor12/06/06
Stunning! I love the title, the soup, the home and the way the woman slowly thaws. Beautiful story.
Stephen Paynter12/07/06
What can I say? Except to join the chorus and say "Wow! Good writing!" I hope this one does well for you, it deserves to.
Glenn A. Hascall12/07/06
I'm standing in the cold - I'm detecting the spices - I'm resisting - I'm accepting - I'm warm - I'm in awe.

Very well done. You took me to a place I wouldn't want to go and brought me back with much to consider.
Venice Kichura12/07/06
WOW! I agree---you'll soon be moving up!

I'm betting this places high...excellent writing skills here!
Birdie Courtright12/07/06
ow, I could feel the warmth as she entered the shelter and the love. Fantastic job!
terri tiffany12/08/06
This is beautiful writing! Very vivid descriptions and a heart puller at the end:) excellent writing!