Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)
TITLE: The Vacant Lot
By Karen Treharne
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Julie went outside to get the morning paper. It was already 72 degrees, at 8am, and according to the late night news, it was going to reach a record high today somewhere in the nineties. Unusually hot for April in the Pacific Northwest, to say the least.
The air was filled with the sweet smell of spring, and flowers popping up here and there added color to the otherwise drab trailer park landscape. Julie had been staying in her mom’s mobile home for over six months, caring for her dying parent. Since passing into the arms of the Savior, her only child was left to dispose of the “estate”.
She waved to Mrs. Shirley across the road as she picked up “The Tribune”. Eighty-three years old and a widow, this arthritic neighbor had been the first to introduce herself when Julie arrived.
Many of the neighbors visited throughout her stay; bringing food, staying to chat and share a cup of tea, or reading verses to her mom from the “Proverbs for Life” devotional. They were company for her mother and provided a time of rest for Julie. She looked around at their meager homes and thought about each of the elderly residents who lived in them. Such charitable, giving and hospitable people. If only she could repay their thoughtfulness.
After finishing her coffee and reading the local news, Julie finished her grocery list. Milk, juice, bananas, vegetables … tomatoes, beans, carrots… She glanced out the window at the abandoned site next door. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Filled with rocks, weeds and animal poop, it wasn’t just an eyesore, it was downright dangerous to even walk through. Suddenly the idea came to her like fog lifting off the ocean.
That was the answer!
She was so excited she could hardly sit still. In fact, she didn’t. Rushing to the phone, she called the manager. Stan thought it was a great idea and told her to “go for it”. Julie spent the next couple of hours making arrangements for top soil, fertilizer and purchasing starter plants and seeds. Her last stop was to buy invitations.
The following Saturday, they arrived “two by two“; Dee Shirley with her wig slightly askew, and “The Major”, both approached supporting themselves on canes, 79-year-old Marge was clinging to her walker, Norm came in his wheelchair, Gladys drove her scooter, and Kent and Jeannie walked arm in arm. Don still rode his bicycle, at 84.
Julie’s invite was at noon for “tea and crumpets” to say good-bye. Her work putting everything in order was finally done, and it was time for her to return to her Florida home and husband, Ben. It had been a long separation, and she was anxious to be with him again
Julie served refreshments as her guests sat around the patio table soaking up the sun’s warmth on another bonus day of unseasonable weather. When there was a lull in the conversation, she made her announcement.
“Thank you all for coming. You have been good friends and neighbors, and now that I’m ready to leave, I want to show my appreciation.” Julie smiled around the group, looking each of them in the eye. “I know you’re all familiar with the vacant lot…” Nods and words of agreement were shared in response. …“Well, as a good-bye gift, and with much gratitude for your kindness and generosity, I am converting it into a community garden.”
Silence lingered for what seemed like minutes before the elders responded. Then smiles sprouted like tulips and sparkling tears sprang up in several eyes. The proclamation was a huge success.
“In memory of Emily Rosewood and her daughter Julie,” was the final consensus for the tribute to the group plot. No longer a wasted space of thorns and thistles, from now on it was going to be filled with color and provide a gathering place for the neighborhood to fellowship in unity and remembrance.
With each passing year, Julie received an annual letter containing news about the families involved, and the fun times spent together planting and harvesting their crops. Each letter included pictures of the garden in various stages of growth and the friendly faces of her friends. She framed the pictures, year by year, and with a joyful heart thanked God for the numerous blessings she continued to receive from these gracious, loving seniors.
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