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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)

TITLE: The Heart of Simplicity
By Teresa Collins


As the leaves danced in the brisk northern air, I watched with curious delight. It was amazing to see the seasons change with all of their beauty. Being from a big city in the south, I gazed with wide eyed wonder at the hills, dirt roads and bare trees.
I was on a mission trip with my church visiting some of the rural community.

I drove along the dirt road then down a long lane. Did I make a wrong turn? I thought. I glanced at the directions scribbled on a piece of paper. The road was narrow, the big holes hard to miss. Junk cars lined both sides of the road and seemed to go on for miles.

Ahead, I saw a child get out of an old car and run along the road. The child ran toward a big yellow school bus that was right in the middle of all the cars. I saw other children looking out of the windows of the bus. Is this where they live? I thought.

I looked around and saw what looked to me like a cardboard house, a shack. Just then a tall, thin woman came out to greet me. Her hair was auburn and tied back in a knot which she wore low on her head. Children were running to her from all directions. She had a baby on her hip and another in her tummy.
“Sylvia?” I asked.
“Yes!” she replied.
Her voice was like a gentle breeze whispering through the trees.
“My name is Tess, can we talk a little bit?” I asked

She invited me in; the two small rooms filled fast once we were all inside. Tar and roofing paper made up most of the frame and the floor was linoleum over dirt. A gentle rain had started. The drips were lead to the walls with wire hangers so they wouldn’t make puddles in the middle of the floor. Four bunk beds were set up against one wall. A pot bellied stove in the middle of the room kept the chill off. There was a three-burner kerosene stove for cooking, a pan of water for washing dishes, and an outside toilet. Rags covered the windows.

The five children were polite and mannerly the older ones would help the younger ones. In her back-woods accent Sylvia said, “I have a sewin’ machine in the bus, that’s where I sew for me and the kids.” She said as she showed me the long-sleeved, cotton dress she had on.

I joined her as she finished the laundry. She used an old wringer washer. With bare feet she hung the clothes on the line. I thought her fingers and toes must be freezing, especially with the cold rain. Her hands and feet were delicate but showed the signs of many years of hard work. She could see the concern on my face and assured me that she would be fine.
“Do you know the Lord, Sylvia?” I asked gently.
“Oh yes!” she replied. “My Granpap was a preacher.” She said proudly.
She took my hand and led me inside. She picked up an old tattered book.
“This was his.” She said softly.
The pages were worn with margins full of notes.
“I was just a youngin’ when Jesus came into my heart, it will be the same for these youngins.” She continued, as she looked around at her children. “Aw, I’m just borrowin’ these things.” She said as she looked around.
“I’ve got much better things ahead.” I heard the joy in her voice.

I sat in awesome wonder as I thought about how much I had and all the modern luxury I was used to. I went to minister to her and she ministered to me instead. Sylvia was simple, poor and appeared to have nothing, yet she had everything. She was happy, content, and full of life. Sylvia made a lasting impression on me that day.
When I left, her favorite verse played over and over in my mind. “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed: because your true life is not made up of things you own, no matter how rich you maybe.” GNT

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This article has been read 532 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Carol Shaffron06/22/06
This piece really touches my heart. Life truly is being content and finding our joy only in HIM! Blessings.
terri tiffany06/22/06
I agree... this was well written with a wonderful message. Your detail was vivid and just enough. You write very well!!
Sherry Wendling06/23/06
Great job! You have a very engaging, descriptive style that's easy on the reader and delightful to experience. Sylvia's character, especially, comes alive here.

To make this piece even stronger, you'll want to avoid dialogue tags, such as “Sylvia?” I asked.
“Yes!” she replied. You can show a small detail of action, thought, or facial expression to clue in the reader on who's speaking. This keeps the flow moving without "he said, she said"
distracting the reader.

It's the same for when your first person is thinking something. You don't need, "Did I make a wrong turn? I thought." Or,
"Is this where they live? I thought." Better to simply state the thought, perhaps using italics if you must. Or, Could this be their home?

Have fun thinking up creative ways to couch your dialogue, and you'll go far with your excellent writing gift!

Valerie Routhieaux06/27/06
You have a way of bringing images to your words. Very good. Thanks for sharing and keep writing.