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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: The Day I Was Invited to a Garden
By Dan Blankenship


It was Saturday, about six in the morning. The papers were always light on Saturday; the only heavy section being the sports pages, full of pictures and stories about Friday night gridiron happenings. I made my rounds sometimes on my bike, sometimes on foot. This particular Saturday, I was on foot.

I was almost halfway through my route when Mrs. Hostettler approached me from the side of her small ranch home.

“Well hello there, Danny. And how is your wonderful morning going?”

She was dressed in what looked like a hospital gown, and her hair was patchy and disheveled. She was a mess, and I just wanted her to not talk to me. The sooner I made it through my route, the sooner I could gather some friends for a football game in my backyard.

“It’s going okay.”

I didn’t ask her how her day was going. She was old, I was young. We had nothing in common. We were as far apart as two people could be.

“Have you seen my garden?” She asked.

“No, umm, I haven’t,” I replied.

“Well, come ‘round back and see it. My granddaughter has been helping me all summer. It really is beautiful.”

She started to tell me that it would be getting cold soon, and the vegetables and flowers she had planted in the middle of the summer would soon be gone.

“I really have to finish my route, Mrs. Hostettler. My family is going somewhere when I am done,” I lied.

“Okay then, you have a good day with your family, Danny.”

I felt like the meanest person in the world, but I really had no interest in gardens. I finished my route, called a few friends, and played football for the rest of the morning.

That night, a neighbor informed me that Mrs. Hostettler had passed away. I was devastated. I laid in my bed for hours, wide awake, and wondered how I could have been so inconsiderate, so ignorant, and so selfish.

I asked God to forgive me for not giving Mrs. Hostettler a few minutes of my time. I sealed my request with my twelve-year-old stocked tear ducts. My sorrow was genuine and it brought about a cleansing peace as I realized the error of my ways.

The next day, I sat near the garden I had no interest in the day before. It really was beautiful. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts were surrounded by fall flowers that I did not know the name of. I would later learn they were ornamental cabbage kales, dusty miller, and marigolds.

It was only a few minutes before a young woman came up behind me.

“Did you know my grandmother?” the beautiful woman asked me. She wore a dazzling red dress, and her hair was blond and curly. She looked like a princess. I guessed her to be in her early twenties.

“I was her paper boy,” I replied.

“Did she show you her garden?” she asked.

“She wanted to yesterday.” I started to cry. “I…I…lied and said I was too busy.”

The woman hugged me, and she told me it was okay. She told me that she understood and that things would be okay. She told me I had come back to see the garden and that Mrs. Hostettler could see us looking at her garden right now. Her hug and words felt so comforting, like God was answering me back for my long prayers the night before.

“I don’t know the names,” I said. “I want to know the names,” I said, pointing to the flowers that surrounded the vegetable garden.

Mrs. Hostettler’s granddaughter taught me the names of the flowers in the garden on that Sunday morning.

Every person on the second half of my paper route had to wait a long time for his or her paper that day. I needed to learn how to walk in someone else’s world for a while.

My world became a lot bigger and more complicated place on that memorable weekend; from 12 to 20 in less than 24 hours.

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This article has been read 1058 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 09/16/06
Thank you for such a beautiful story! I'd been reading entries for a while and..well, nothing shook me, nothing moved me, and I was like.. yawning; then this piece came along and I shed a tear, swallowed a lump, and my emotions came alive. Thanks! It had a great message, written with realism, and I truly enjoyed my day in your garden...good job.
Jan Ross09/16/06
A beautiful story, to be sure ... easy to read, flowing, and beautifully written! Nice job! :)
geoff anderson09/17/06
What a moving tale, sensitively told! I liked the detail of Mrs Hostettler's appearance, which made her seem suitably far removed from the child's world.
You make her garden into a metaphor for her world, a world that the child has no interest in visiting, not even for a moment. We can all identify with this - we all must have made excuses at one time or another to avoid having to visit some person's world.
I would make only two suggestions, if I may: change the word 'world' into 'garden' in the last but one paragraph, and then make that the LAST paragraph.
We don't need the expanded, overt explanation of what happened to the child that weekend. We were there, experiencing it with him. You have SHOWN us, so you spoil it by then TELLING us.

The sentence 'I needed to learn how to walk in someone else's world for a while' is also TELLING us, which is why I have suggested changing 'world' to 'garden'. Then you keep it within the story's realm, within the realm of the metaphor which has so vividly SHOWN us this gently tragic sequence of events and the effect they had on the child. If, instead of 'world', he says he needs to learn to walk in someone else's GARDEN, he is SHOWING us clearly how much he has learned because he knows now that for that moment, for that invitation, Mrs Hostettler's garden WAS her world. And it's a super line to end the story.
It's a fact, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we add a line or two too many to our stories. I was a preacher, and I was as guilty as anybody of saying 'And finally' two, or even three, times. Classic!
Very well done.
Jen Davis09/17/06
A very touching story. I agree with the above comment that you could eliminate the last paragraph. The paragraph before would bring this piece to a nice conclusion. You might also consider using dialogue and more show instead of tell in the paragraph beginning "The woman hugged me..." Thanks for sharing this wonderful message!
david grant09/20/06
Actually I would keep the last sentence and make it my lead, with a little variation. I think it sums up your message well, and would have drawn in to the story better.