Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)
TITLE: Open Doors
By Vickie Buchanan
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The rain was welcome, of course. It always is in Southern California. When Diana woke it was the fragrance she noticed first. Through the open bathroom window she took in several wafts of moist, cool air. The wet dust smell didn’t offend; it was a promise of cleansing, of washing away the summer grit and autumn’s dust, borne on the Santa Ana winds. The first real rain in so long, a cool January morning, and to top it off, it was Monday. Diana was ecstatic; Diana was retired!
She had taken voluntary early retirement to take advantage of a company incentive. If she hadn’t she would soon have been part of a huge layoff. The job was OK, but she saw the offer as an open door. When God opened doors for Diana she never feared to walk through them. She had gone through the door of grief when Ken died suddenly. That led to the door of a wonderful church, something that had been missing in her life. Contacts at the church led to the door of a job, one she really needed. Now that door was closing, and the retirement door beckoned. So she confidently declared herself ‘retired’.
No commute on the freeway, no slogging across the employee parking lot with its potholes full of dirty water, just waiting for someone to misjudge and step in. No cranky fellow workers vying for a place to park umbrellas and wet jackets. Diana would stay home, drink a whole pot of coffee, maybe light a fire in the fireplace, start that mystery novel she got for her birthday.
It rained for days. Soft rain, gentle enough that the crusty, dehydrated earth could soak it up, so thirsty after a three-year drought. Diana finished the book the first day. She guessed who the culprit was by the fifth chapter. Tuesday afternoon she baked cookies; Wednesday she cleaned out the bathroom cabinet.
“What do retired people do all day?” she asked Tinker, her cat. Tinker stretched and yawned as a suggestion, but Diana was more energetic than that. She had plans to plant a winter garden, join a Bible study, and paint her bedroom.
“Hard to get motivated when the rain keeps you inside,” she explained to Tinker. Tinker washed her face and took another nap. Being busy was over rated, she believed.
It turned out to be the wettest winter Southern California had in years. Rainy days had worn out their welcome. Gray was a dominant color everywhere. Gardens went unplanted, projects were put on hold. Diana was bored. The door God had opened hadn’t led anywhere. Yet.
She found the next door cleverly hidden in the newspaper. An article in the local section told of a homeless shelter in need of volunteers. The rain and cold had left dozens of homeless, many of them children, in unsafe and uncomfortable situations. The shelter was providing only a portion of their needs. They needed more help, especially in these winter months and troubled economy. That tugging against her heart told her this was another door, and someone was knocking.
Diana found herself taking the freeway to the shelter in the article, slogging across the parking lot, carefully avoiding the potholes. She parked her umbrella next to three others and stepped up to a counter that was manned by a well-groomed gentleman with a kind face and beautiful brown eyes.
“How do I sign up to volunteer?” she asked.
“Just follow me,” the gentleman said with a welcoming smile, indicating an office door. The gray January morning suddenly felt warmer inside that door.
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