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Carl's garden

  • Subject: Carl's garden
  • From: SECK138@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001 06:54:06 EDT

In a message dated 09/13/2001 5:58:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time, SUONEILL
writes:


> 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 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 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 wedd! ! ing 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?" "Carl," he
> replied.
>
>






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