Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: HARVEST (11/21/19)
- TITLE: The Gardener
By Marilyn Borga
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She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped the sweat from her brow. Her own gardening days were over; as was nearly everything else she had enjoyed most of her life. She had barely resumed her walk when she heard the voice.
"Mrs. Foster? Is that you?"
She turned and squinted at the man. The gardener, she surmised, when she spied the hoe in his hand.
"Tom Slater," he said as he whipped off his glove and held his hand out to her.
She shook the hand. "Now Iâ€™m really curious. How is it we've met?"
"You taught Vacation Bible School, second grade, forty years ago."
Addie's mind journeyed back in time. So many children through the years; who could possibly remember them all?
"Tom Slater," she murmured. "Forty years..." She gazed into the eyes of the middle-aged man before her, trying to reconcile the heavily-bearded face with those of the hundreds of little boy faces she had once known. Suddenly, something clicked.
"Tommy?" she asked, scrutinizing the toothy grin.
"Yes! I went by 'Tommy' in those days," he answered, clearly delighted that she had remembered.
Oh, yes! How well she remembered that particular VBS and that notorious class! The class had been composed of seven very ornery, extremely high-energy little boys; not a single second-grade girl had enrolled that summer. All of Addie's friends had begged off, volunteering to take any class but that one; Tommy's reputation had preceded him, even though he had only been attending Grace Church for a couple weeks.
Tommy's disruptive behavior had far surpassed that of the other boys. He was mean, he was angry, and he didn't smell too good. He was totally inattentive except at snack time. Soon all the other boys began taking their cue from him. Each evening, she would tearfully vent her frustration to her husband.
"They won't listen to anything I say!" she would cry. "I'm trying so hard to reach them, but it's been a total waste of time!"
"Now, now," he would say. "Just do what you can and let Jesus do the rest."
Easy for him to say, she had thought. But she had prayed for the boys and she prayed for strength to get through that trial. At last, the week that had seemed more like a month came to an end. Addie's husband took her on a weekend trip. When they returned they found out that Tommy's dad had been arrested; his mom had taken Tommy and moved away. Addie hadn't thought of him in decades.
She studied him now with interest. Then, remembering her manners, she focused her attention on the garden. "You have a beautiful garden," she said. "I've admired it all summer."
"Let me get you something! Do you like tomatoes? Peppers? Beans?"
"I didn't mean--- well, I wasn't asking---" Her face reddened with embarrassment.
He took no notice of her protests, but jogged to the nearby shed and brought out a plastic bag which he began filling with vegetables.
"I'm having a wonderful harvest; much more than I need. Besides, food tastes better when it's shared, don't you think?" He continued chatting as he picked.
"You know, Mrs. Foster, you were the very first person to tell me about Jesus. It took many years for me to see the light, but eventually, I realized I didn't want to live in darkness anymore." He handed the sack over the fence and plopped it onto the seat of the walker. "Let this be a beginning to thank you for what you did. I want you to stop back for more when that's gone."
Addie continued on, smiling as she walked. She had just tasted a miraculous harvest where she thought no seed had been planted. Oh, it tasted good!
"Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Matthew 9:38 (NKJV)
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