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The following spring another flyer went up. It
read: ¡°Person needed to care for Carl¡¯s garden.¡±
The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishio-
ners 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 gar-
den shed, he said, ¡°Yes, go take care of Carl¡¯s
garden and honor him.¡±
The man went to work and, over the next sev-
eral years, he tended the flowers and vegeta-
bles just as Carl had done.
In that time, he went to college, got married
and became a prominent member of the com-
munity. 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¡¯s just had a baby boy last night and she¡¯s
bringing him home on Saturday.¡±
¡°Well, congratulations!¡± said the minister, as he
was handed back the garden shed keys.
¡°That¡¯s wonderful! What¡¯s the baby¡¯s name?¡±
¡°Carl,¡± he replied.
The Reading Room 2018 October/November
Pg 5 - The Sunshine Express
Treasures From The Inbox
If you get email, you
get stuff. Sometimes
it is spam, sometimes
it is a true gem.
Here is one of those
gems worth sharing:
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 walk-
ing down the street often worried us. He had
a slight limp from a bullet wound received in
WWII.
Watching him, we worried that although he had
survived WWII, 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, ask-
ing 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 at-
tack 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 troubled 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
¡°There is no surprise more
magical than the surprise of
being loved. It is God¡¯s finger
on man¡¯s shoulder.¡±
- Charles Morgan
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, throw-
ing 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 awk-
ward moment, not knowing what more there
was to say.
¡°That bag is 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 who still smiled back at him from all
those years ago.
He died one cold day after Christmas that win-
ter. Many people attended his funeral in spite of
the weather.
In particular the minister noticed a tall young
man who 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.¡±