#1183  Carl

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 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 un-assuming 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 

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 warm 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 

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.

Author Unknown

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