Carl’s Garden……

CARL’S GARDEN

Carl was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much. He would always greet you with a
big smile and a firm handshake. Even after living in our neighborhood for
over 50 years, no one could really say they knew him very well.

Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning. The lone sight
of him walking down the street often worried us. He had a slight limp from a
bullet wound received in WW II. Watching him, we worried that although he
had survived WW II, he may not make it through our changing uptown
neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence, gangs, and drug
activity.

When he saw the flyer at our local church asking for volunteers for caring
for the gardens behind the minister’s residence, he responded in his
characteristically unassuming manner. Without fanfare, he just signed up.
He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always feared
finally happened.

He was just finishing his watering for the day when three gang members
approached him. Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked,
“Would you like a drink from the hose?”

The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, “Yeah, sure”, with a
malevolent little smile. As Carl offered the hose to him, the other two
grabbed Carl’s arm, throwing him down. As the hose snaked crazily over the
ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl’s assailants stole his
retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled. Carl tried to get himself
up, but he had been thrown down on his bad leg.

He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came running to help
him. Although the minister had witnessed the attack from his window, he
couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it. “Carl, are you okay? Are you
hurt?” the minister kept asking as he helped Carl to his feet. Carl just
passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his head.

“Just some punk kids. I hope they’ll wise-up someday.” His wet clothes clung
to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose. He adjusted the nozzle
again and started to water.

Confused and a little concerned, the minister asked, “Carl, what are you
doing?”

“I’ve got to finish my watering. It’s been very dry lately”, came the calm
reply. Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister could
only marvel. Carl was a man from a different time and place.

A few weeks later the three returned. Just as before their threat was
unchallenged. Carl again offered them a drink form his hose. This time they
didn’t rob him. They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched him head
to foot in the icy water.

When they had finished their humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the
street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at
the hilarity of what they had just done. Carl just watched them. Then he
turned toward the warmth giving sun, picked up his hose, and went on with
his watering.

The summer was quickly fading into fall. Carl was doing some tilling when he
was startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him. He stumbled and
fell into some evergreen branches. As he struggled to regain his footing, he
turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormenters reaching down for
him. He braced himself for the expected attack. “Don’t worry old man, I’m
not gonna hurt you this time.” The young man spoke softly, still offering
the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl.

As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and
handed it to Carl. “What’s this?” Carl asked.

“It’s your stuff,” the man explained. “It’s your stuff back. Even the money
in your wallet.”

“I don’t understand,” Carl said. “Why would you help me now?”

The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease. “I learned
something from you”, he said. “I ran with that gang and hurt people like
you. We picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it. But
every time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting
back, you tried to give us a drink. You didn’t hate us for hating you. You
kept showing love against our hate.” He stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t
sleep after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.” He paused for another
awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say. “That bag’s my way
of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.” And with that, he
walked off down the street.

Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it. He took
out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his wallet,
he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at the young bride
that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.

He died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people attended his
funeral in spite of the weather. In particular the minister noticed a tall
young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the
church. The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a lesson in life. In a voice
made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your best and make your garden as
beautiful as you can. We will never forget Carl and his garden.”

The following spring another flyer went up. It read: “Person needed to care
for Carl’s garden.” The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until
one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s office door. Opening the
door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the
flyer. “I believe this is my job, if you’ll have me,” the young man said.

The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the
stolen watch and wallet to Carl. He knew that Carl’s kindness had turned
this man’s life around. As the minister handed him the keys to the garden
shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.”

The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the flowers
and vegetables just as Carl had done. In that time, he went to college, got
married and became a prominent member of the community. But he never forgot
his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought
Carl would have kept it.

One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn’t care
for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, “My wife
just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him home on Saturday.”

“Well, congratulations! ” said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed
keys. “That’s wonderful! What’s the baby’s name?”

It was Carl.

— Author Unknown

About Roger Overweg

Interest include: Nature photography, Detroit Tigers, I'm a Spiritual, Meditative, analysis, Divorce, Spirituality, Weather, Chicago Cubs, Talk radio, Lighthouses, Medicine, Meditation, Hiking, Fishing, Short wave radio, Bible, Holy Bible, News, Newspapers, Photography, Baseball, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Coffee, Prayer, Freash-water-fish-aquarium. Reading, Books, Lakes, Streams, Dunes, Devotionals, Philosophy
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