Gregory Central Inspirational Pages

Dad of the Year

Years ago

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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 W.WII.

Watching him, we worried that although he had
survived W.W.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 from 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
tormentors 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'name?" "Carl," he
replied.

That's the whole gospel message simply stated.