The Power Of Love
Andy was a quiet
He didn't talk much. He would always greet you with a big smile
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
sight of him walking down the street often worried us. He had a
limp from a bullet wound received in WWII. Watching him, we
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
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
three gang members approached
him. Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked,
you like a drink from the hose?"
The tallest and toughest looking of the three said, "Yeah, sure," with
a malevolent little smile.
As Andy offered the hose to him, the other two grabbed Andy's arm,
throwing him down. As the hose snaked crazily over the ground,
everything in its way, Andy's assailants stole his retirement watch and
his wallet, and then fled. Andy tried to get himself up, but he
been thrown down on his bad leg. He lay there trying to gather
as the minister came running to help him. Although the minister
witnessed the attack from his window, he couldn't get
there fast enough to stop it.
"Andy, are you okay? Are you hurt?" the minister kept asking as
helped Andy to his feet.
Andy just passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his
"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, "Andy, what are
"I've got to finish my watering. It's been very dry lately," came
Satisfying himself that Andy really was all right, the minister could
only marvel. Andy was a man from a different time and place.
A few weeks later the three returned. Just as before their threat
unchallenged. Andy again offered them a drink from his
hose. This time
they didn't rob him. They wrenched the hose from his hand and
him head to foot in the icy water. When they had finished their
humiliation of him, they sauntered off
street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing
the hilarity of what they had just done.
Andy just watched them. Then he turned toward the warmth giving
his hose, and went on with his watering.
The summer was quickly fading into fall and Andy was doing some tilling
when he was
startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him. He
into some evergreen branches. As he struggled to regain his
turned to see the tall leader of his
summer tormentors reaching down for him. He braced himself for
"Don't worry old man, I'm not gonna hurt you this time." The
spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to
he helped Andy get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket
and handed it to Andy.
"What's this?" Andy asked.
"It's your stuff," the man explained. "It's your stuff
back. Even the
money in your wallet."
"I don't understand," Andy said. "Why would you help me now?"
The young man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at
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
time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting
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
so here it
He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was
"That bag's my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I
with that, he walked off down the street.
Andy looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it.
his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his
he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at the
bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.
He died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people
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
Andy'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 Andy and his
The following spring another flyer went up. It read: "Person
Andy's garden." The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners
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
the flyer. "I believe this is my job, if you'll have me," the
said. The minister recognized him as the same young man who had
returned the stolen watch
and wallet to Andy.
He knew that Andy's kindness had turned this man's life around.
handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, "Yes, go take care of
Andy's garden and honor him."
The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the
flowers and vegetables just as Andy had done. During that time,
to college, got married, and became a prominent member of the
But he never forgot his promise to Andy's memory and
kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Andy would have kept it.
One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn't
the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile,
just had a baby boy last night, and she's bringing him home on
"Well, congratulations!" said the minister, as he was handed the garden
shed keys. "That's wonderful! What's the baby's name?"
© 2010, Jace Carlton. All International Rights Reserved.