Pink carnations, KFC, chocolate pudding, and three bars of soap
What milestones do you use by which to judge your life’s highs and lows? In retrospect, do these events or encounters appear larger than life, or have you honestly ever taken the time to think about what makes your life worth living each day?
Never having been a person taken much to melancholia or depression, I can count on one hand the times I have been seriously out of sorts to the point of real depression. I can remember feeling so very alone, physically ill and uncharacteristically unsure of the outcome of what I was facing. I found myself away from family and old and dear friends, and seemingly facing more than I could contend with at the time. Thank God, these four events or time periods in my life did not linger and I was able to resurrect my faith, stand on a biblical promise, or receive help from those who realized I was struggling.
Four different people, unknown to each other and, in fact, living in different parts of the country, came to my aid and showed me in my own personal suffering the matchless love of God, genuine compassion for a fellow traveler, and that life was good and to be lived with gusto and determination. Thank God each of these folks was a hero at the time I most needed to meet a bright and shining star. And all these many years later, they’ve probably forgotten the gesture that endeared them to my heart, but I surely have not and doubt that I ever will. Sometimes, it really is a little thing that changes a life for a time or brings hope to a tired and weary soul.The bearer of the pink carnations was a precious bus worker who had served on the team for my husband and I in the big and bustling bus ministry of a local church in the Atlanta area. I had a terrible pregnancy and lost a baby but could not abort the fetus. Medicine that would have normally been prescribed for me could not be since it would conflict with other medicine given to me. Therefore, I was put on complete bed rest and told by my doctor that nature would take care of the miscarriage. I simply had to wait. That was the most difficult thing I could have ever been called on to do because I was a go getter, had much to do each week, was the mother of two little ones, and had a husband who was also very busy.
On a Saturday morning, my preacher husband took the two little ones and left for the church. I knew they would likely be gone all day long in visitation and planning for the following day’s services. I looked out the window of my upstairs bedroom at the tall Georgia pines with great tears rolling down my face and I questioned God. Had I not been a faithful worker for Him and His church? Did I not want this child that I had lost? Did anyone really care that I was home alone, in pain, dealing with a broken heart, frightened beyond my own imagination, and unsure of the future? There were other things going on, but you get the picture. I was so alone and it seemed no one really cared.
I heard a car come slowly up the drive and I put on my robe and made my way downstairs to answer the door. Standing on my steps was Virgil Huggins, one of the kindest men I have ever met. Virgil was somewhat shy and always considerate. He stuck out a big bouquet of beautiful pink carnations and said, “Miss Brenda, I have been thinking that this illness is hard for you, and I wanted you to know Wendy and I care. We thought these might cheer you up.” And with that, Virgil left. He never came in the house. He simply delivered the flowers and went on to bus visitation at the church. I cried as I placed each of the dozen or so flowers in a tall vase and filled it with water. I cried as I took the arrangement back upstairs and placed it on my nightstand. I cried each day as I changed out the water and enjoyed the flowers. Every time I saw the pink color of the flowers against the green leaves, I remembered that I was loved and needed and that someone cared. Those same flowers lasted three weeks and I’ve never forgotten them.
When I lived in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on a big farm, my husband traveled all over the country, and I had three children to rear, animals to tend to, a huge job to work, and the care of the home and many other duties. I fell ill with a terrible flu-like cold and was so sick I could not go to work. It had snowed outside and ice coated the roads, making travel nearly impossible for folks that were well. Being home sick was very rare for me. One late afternoon nearing dusk, an old farm truck came around our drive and one of our employees, Max Lambert, jumped out and came up on the porch. I made my way to the door and he handed me a big, warm bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a bag with all the trimmings. For Max at the time, that purchase represented a lot of money. “Miss Brenda, Sharon and I know you have to be sick if you didn’t come to work, so we wanted to bring dinner. Hope you and the kids enjoy it.” I cried as I placed the meal on the table for my children and I to eat.A third time I was going through a great, scary valley in my personal life. Things were changing rapidly and I could not control them in any way. No one knew. No one would believe me if they did. Information had come into my possession that I knew would change our home forever. No one that I knew sensed that I was barely holding on and with the least little slip, would fall into absolute oblivion and fear. A kind neighbor lady knocked softly on my door and handed me a dish of her homemade chocolate pudding, which she knew I loved. Allene Carlton did not say a word about problems or issues in our home. She simply said, “Chocolate pudding made with love always helps,” and left. It did!
And the fourth story I’ll share has to do with a current friendship. I lost my mom 13 days before Hurricane Ike hit the Bolivar Peninsula in 2008. While home in Atlanta burying her and taking care of her business, we got word that we were under mandatory evacuation and that we could not get home. We did not get to evacuate. When I returned, all I owned in the entire world was what few things were in my suitcase that I had traveled to Atlanta with for her visitation and funeral. Everything was gone. I never took the time to grieve over one sad and bad thing before two more had hit. Then came the long fight with insurance, the county, rebuilding, FEMA, and on and on. One Saturday afternoon, it caught up with me and I started crying and did not think I could ever stop. A knock came at my front door and there stood a new friend with a small gift bag containing three bars of scented soap and a note. Deborah simply said, “I thought you might need a lift today.” Oh, how I needed that lift — maybe even a forklift to get me up from where I was when that knock came.
Folks, be good to each other. If God puts something on your heart to do for someone else, no matter however small and insignificant, do it. Don’t question it. You will never know if you have helped to change the course of a life or lifted a soul from distress and depression. God uses the little things of life to be of help and blessing. If I have never said it appropriately, thank you Virgil, Max, Allene and Deborah. You helped to change my life, and I appreciate it more than you can know.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.