Nothing in common. Nothing to share.
Every morning I walked past her house. Every morning I waved and smiled cordially. Every morning I glanced into her yard.
Three kids. One smiling woman. We had nothing in common. Nothing to share.
"I'm glad the holiday's over," she said last Monday, as she bent over her flowerbed. "Now I can get my pansies into the ground."
Whatever that meant. I just nodded and kept trekking.
Small talk. We'd spoken maybe… twice in the past four years. Six sentences altogether.
I guess I never really cared… until yesterday.
The helium balloons caught her attention.
I stood on her doorstep and she smiled as I handed her three balloons – one for each child.
"I hope they can come to my house sometime," I said excitedly. "I have a club for kids every week."
She smiled politely. "Maybe they'll do that."
My heart sank. What was I thinking? Why should this woman trust me? She knew nothing about me.
We had nothing in common. Nothing to share.
I paced down her driveway, staring at the broken concrete beneath my feet.
Suddenly her voice called.
"You wouldn't want some pansies, would you?"
Slowly I turned and saw them -- her pansies -- sitting on the porch. Plats of dirt and withering petals stretched as far as my eye could see.
"I--I couldn't take your pansies," I stuttered uncomfortably.
"Please," she said, "I'll never get them in the ground and it's about to frost. They've been here forever. I'm overwhelmed."
I don't know what made me say it. I didn't even know her. She was a perfect stranger. But the thought echoed through my heart,
"When I was thirsty you gave Me something to drink…"
I could almost hear Jesus whisper, "When I was tired you planted My pansies…"
I smiled at the thought.
Suddenly the words flew out my mouth:
"Do you want some help?"
She stared, trying to determine if I was serious.
"Sure," she smiled. "I sure would."
"I'll come back tomorrow," I promised. "In the afternoon."
I waved goodbye and silently began to question my sanity. When I was tired, you planted My pansies… the words echoed through my heart again and again.
"But we have nothing in common," I whispered. "Nothing to share."
When I was tired, you planted My pansies…
Dusk turned to dawn and morning turned to afternoon. Slowly I walked the short distance to her house and rang the bell. Two tiny eyes peered from behind the curtain.
"Can I help you?" the little girl asked as the door squeaked open.
"Yes," I said. "I'm here to plant the pansies, and I don't know where your mom wants to put them."
"She'll be out in a minute," she said as the door closed again.
The knob turned and there my neighbor stood.
Suddenly it struck me -- I didn't even know her name. And I was planting her pansies? Once again I questioned my sanity.
"You were serious." She smiled. "Thank you so much for coming back."
We started in opposite beds, making quiet small talk. She told me everything there was to know about the history of the neighborhood and who lived on this land long ago.
"You've only been here for four years," I said, "And you already know more than I do about this place."
"It's my job," she smiled. "I'm a journalist. I ask questions."
My breath caught in my chest.
I paused. Should I tell her? Really, it wasn't much to talk about.
But it was something in common. Something we shared.
"I'm… I'm… I'm a writer too," I stammered.
Her eyebrow went up.
"Yeah… have you ever heard of Focus on the Family?" I asked.
"I freelance for them, and other organizations like them."
Then the worst happened. She asked the dreaded question.
"Have you ever thought about taking your writing beyond freelancing? You know – a job in the corporate world of words?"
My mind raced.
Should I tell her? Should I tell this stranger my deepest darkest secret?
Shakily, I told the truth.
"I'm disabled," I said.
"Oh no! What happened?"
"Autoimmune disease," I shrugged. "I go through remissions and relapses. So working from home seems to be the best at this point."
She looked at her shoes and then she looked at me. A question hung in her eyes.
Was there something she wanted to say?
"I'm disabled, too," she finally said.
What? Was I dreaming?
"C.P.," she shrugged. "The prognosis isn't good."
"There comes a point at which you can no longer curl up in a ball and shut the world out," she whispered.
"You have to go on."
"Yes," I said. "Exactly."
Slowly we turned back to our work. In an hour we planted six plats of pansies. Six plats of tiny withering flowers. Six plats of hopeful little seedlings.
We saved those pansies from the winter's first frost, and in the process God saved me from the winter of loneliness. Somehow the chill of chronic illness was lessened by the realization that I wasn't in it alone.
We had it in common. We had it to share.
As the sun set behind the trees, I tucked my spade in my pocket and said goodbye. She smiled broadly and waved as several small children crowded around her feet.
"Thank you so much," she whispered. "I really couldn't have done it without you."
I smiled as I realized – together we'd planted a garden.
But somehow I knew we'd planted much more than pansies.
Your turn... what's a snapshot of something that's affected your writing?