I’m not young anymore.
Karen Pierce had the same first thought every morning. There again in the mirror were the same purple pouches under her eyes and the spreading strands of white hair. The same thought was new every single morning. It was as if sleeping through the night erased the memory of her reflection in the glass.
On that particular morning, her spirit was weary and her arms were heavy. She brushed her hair and barely had the energy to dress herself.
Can’t be late, she thought, looking at her watch as she made her way down to the street.
People moved around her on the sidewalk, but they were all shadows without color or sound.
“Morning, Karen,” said a familiar voice. She looked up into the cheerful face of Annie Reynolds and managed a tiny nod.
The Loving Hands homeless shelter was wide-awake by that early hour, as the staff prepared to serve breakfast. The ‘guests’ stood in line, hungry and waiting for their food. They’d come off the street and were all grateful for the warm lights and kind faces.
“There goes Pierce,” one of them mumbled, as Karen took her place behind the eggs.
The mumbling passed from the top of the line to the bottom, a domino effect of words and whispers. They didn’t like Karen much. She rarely smiled and spoke even less.
There was one man in the line with a different view of Karen Pierce. He didn’t form his opinion based on her barren expression or her silence. “Old Sam”, as the others called him, had his own way of taking the measure of a person. In his eyes, Karen had the look of a young child who had been abandoned.
“How are you today, Ms. Pierce?” he asked, as he stopped by her station.
“Just fine,” she mumbled, ladling some eggs into his tray.
“I have something for you,” he said, putting his tray down and groping in his pocket.
Karen looked up, confused.
Sam held out his thick, wrinkled fingers, with his palm open. On his palm, was a single tulip with a bright red bulb. Karen looked at the flower and then back at Sam.
“Happy Easter, Ms. Pierce,” he said, smiling. “I wanted to thank you for being such a mother to all of us for so long.”
Karen didn’t move, her eyes fixed on the tulip as a memory broke into her thoughts.
I love tulips, Grandma, she heard herself saying with a little girl’s voice. When the seasons change and the flowers come out, it makes me feel brand new.
Oh, Grandma, she thought, I miss you so much.
“Move off the line, old man!”
Karen dropped her spoon, momentarily startled.
“I better move on now,” Sam said, smiling wryly.
Karen nodded her head, quickly taking the flower from Sam’s hand. He was gone before she remembered to return his smile. She gently lay the tulip on the table and continued serving the eggs.
Fifteen minutes later, she covered her empty tray and picked up her gift. As she looked at it, she began to walk forward and then abruptly stopped. After closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she decided to move again.
“Hello, Sam,” she said, stopping by his table. Before he said anything, she quickly sat down.
“Hello, Ms. Pierce,” he replied, his green eyes sparkling.
“I just wanted to say, Thank you.”
“Ms. Pierce,” he said, “don’t thank me. You deserve so much more. You sacrifice your time and your energy for us, every weekend. That’s real love in my book. In a way, it’s kind of like how God sacrificed His own Son for us. That’s why, with today being Easter, I just felt like it was time to show some gratitude.”
The Lord loves you dear. Grandma used to say it all the time in those younger days. It had been so long since Karen had thought of God. She felt a sense of peace and comfort washing over her entire body.
“Grandma used to say that Easter was just like the change of seasons. It was the rising of life from the dead and a change from old to new.”
“It’s just like that, Ms. Pierce. Why that’s just what it’s like.”
Karen nodded and smiled at Sam, sensing suddenly that she wasn’t alone and that a new and radiant flower had bloomed within her own heart - a sign of a new season and a new life.
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