Part 4: The Power Of Generosity – The Nun

John and I met her while taking our dog, Max for a walk in our neighborhood.

It was the flourishing gardens, and their vast contrast to her small, ramshackle house that originally caught our eye.

We often saw her out in the yard, digging, planting and watering at all hours of the day.

She was a short, robust, elderly woman, probably around seventy years old.

We would wave as we passed her house and she would wave back to us.

The first time we spoke to her, John had stopped to comment on all of her beautiful flowers and thriving vegetable gardens.

She told us her name was Cristiana, as she smiled with not only her mouth, but also with her sparkling blue eyes.

John and I both liked her immediately.

As the months passed, our dog walks led to personal tours of Cristiana’s garden, laughter and many conversations.

“Cristiana likes me, Erin, but she really seems to have an affinity towards you.” John said one day as we passed her house on the way to take Max to the park.

“Do you think so?” I replied, “Because, I think there’s something really special about her, it’s like we have a connection.”

“Well, it shows.” John stated, and I smiled at his comment.

We didn’t know much about Cristiana, other than she was single, Polish and could uproot a rhododendron with an ax like no one you’ve ever seen.

Cristiana, was funny, caring, soft-spoken and for the most part, a pretty private person.

By the time our friendship had reached the one year mark, we though it strange that she would invite us into her yard and share her passion for gardening with us, but never once invited us into her home.

There was a lot we didn’t know about Cristiana, but as with any friendship, we accepted it for what it was and carried on.

Eventually things in our life began to take another direction.

Our neighbor across the street, Madlyn, had an ailing husband.

Then we learned my mother’s cancer had returned.

Life became quite hectic, as we spread ourselves thinly between my mother’s and Madlyn’s home.

Max’s long walks to the park became a thing of the past and our visits with Cristiana ceased.

I felt bad. I worried about Cristiana living alone. I also worried about how she felt about us no longer stopping by to see her.

The seasons changed and we still hadn’t stopped over to visit Cristiana.

It was a hot summer day when we decided to walk Max to the park. Probably not the best decision when it’s over 90 degrees, but for some reason we went anyway.

I felt a twinge of guilt and as we passed Cristiana’s house and headed down the hill to the park.

Thankfully, she isn’t outside. I thought, feeling both embarrassed and as if I had abandoned a friend.

On, the way back up the hill, John, Max and I were panting from the heat and dying to get back home for a cold drink.

I glanced up when we reached the top of the hill and stopped in my tracks.

There was Cristiana standing at the end of the driveway wearing an old house dress and eating a handful of cheese bobka.

Max began running towards her, dragging John behind on the leash.

Before we knew it,  we were standing right in front of Cristiana, while Max jumped and yelped his greeting. She patted Max on the head as she tore off a piece of cheese bobka and tossed it on the ground, to Max’s delight.

“It’s so good to see you!” I said, as she gave me a hug. “I’m sorry we haven’t been around, but life has been hard.”

“I know it has,” she replied. “Please come here, there’s something I want to give you.”

We followed Cristiana up the driveway and into her backyard, as Max happily lapped up the trail of crumbs from the cheese bobka.

On a table near the house laid a pile of beautiful, freshly cut flowers from Cristiana’s garden. Her hands worked quickly as she formed them into a bouquet.

“This is for you, Erin.” She said, as she placed the most enormous bouquet I had ever seen into my arms.

“Thank you Cristiana.” I replied, shocked by what just transpired.

“Those flowers are absolutely gorgeous!” John added. “Thank you so much.”

“Cristiana, do you have something cold to drink?” John asked. “Maybe a bottle of water? I think Max could use a drink too, especially after that cheese bobka.”

“I don’t have anything cold.” Cristiana replied, “My refrigerator died, well, it was old and I just have some stuff in a cooler on the porch.”

We talked for a few minutes, but we all knew that it was too hot of a day to stand in the sun.

As John and I made the long walk back home we became fixated on the fact that Cristiana didn’t have a working refrigerator.

“John, she can’t survive without a working refrigerator.” I said with concern, “There has to be something we can do.”

“We certainly can’t afford to buy her a refrigerator,” John said. “But I agree, we have to do something.”

“Well, maybe somehow we can… we have to find a way.” I stated.

Once back at our house, and after having a cold drink, John got on the computer and searched for a refrigerator.

“Erin, come here and look at this!” He yelled.

I ran to see what he was so excited about.

“Here’s a 4.3 cubic foot, dorm room refrigerator. Perfect condition. Five minutes away. Fifty bucks.”

“How big is that?” I asked.

“It’s one of those tall college refrigerators.” John replied, “We can fit it in my car and have it at Cristiana’s in twenty minutes!”

“Oh, please call!” I told John. “I hope that they still have it… I hope they’re home.”

Someone answered on the second ring.

They were at home and would be waiting for us.

We could pick up the refrigerator immediately.

I let out a squeal of delight!

“Let’s go!” John said, grabbing his car keys.

We got to the house in no time, it was literally five minutes away.

The refrigerator was in perfect condition and John and I were beyond thrilled.

“So, you have a kid in college?” The seller asked.

“No, we’re buying it for a neighbor up the street…” I began, as I explained the story.

We removed the accessories from the fridge and the seller helped John get it into the back seat of our car.

I turned to pay the seller for the refrigerator.

“Forty bucks will do.” He said, as he gave me a hug.

“Thank you.” I replied, “I really appreciate it.”

We arrived at Cristiana’s and carried the college refrigerator up the driveway and into the screened in porch.

“What’s this?” Cristiana asked with tears in her eyes.

“We got you a refrigerator,” John and I replied.

“Thank you,” Cristiana managed to say. I’m not sure if she looked more shocked or relieved, maybe it was a mixture of both.

Together we began moving food and beverages from the cooler as well as from the broken refrigerator in her small house.

“Are you sure you want this refrigerator out on the porch?” John asked.

“It’s better here.” Cristian replied, “There isn’t much room in the house.”

When the job was complete, Cristiana took me by both hands.

“Erin, I have something to tell you, that I haven’t told anyone since I moved here.” She said.

“You can tell me anything, Cristiana.” I replied.

“I’m a retired nun. I prayed for you, for this. I asked God for help and I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen, but I trusted him.”

I stood looking at her in disbelief.

“And there’s one more thing, you and John are the angels I prayed for. Thank you.”

 

I have thought about Cristiana’s words many times since that day. I’ve also thought of all of the coincidences, all of the things that so easily fell into place, and then I remind myself that there are no coincidences.

What I’ve learned about generosity, I learned through practicing it. I have been fortunate enough to be on both the giving and receiving end, many times.

True generosity comes from following your heart, giving outside of your comfort zone, even and sometimes beyond your means, logic or reasoning.

And I know this: don’t be afraid to follow the direction of your heart, it will never lead you wrong.

Much love and good thoughts,

Erin Cooper Reed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3: The Power Of Generosity – The School Teacher

To say that the neighborhood wasn’t ideal, especially at dusk, was an understatement.

We drove past a few check cashing places, privately owned convenience and liquor stores, all secured with bars on their windows.

I pulled into a parking place and shut the car off.

“We’re going to a pawn shop?” Marc asked.

“Do you want to get a laptop today, or not?” I retorted.

“Yes.” Marc said, as he let out a long sigh.

We got out of the car and shut the doors, as I hit the lock button on my key chain.

“Well, let’s go in.” I encouraged.

Reluctantly, Marc complied.

Once inside, I was surprised to see how packed the store was with both merchandise, and people.

We approached the electronics counter and were greeted by a man covered in tattoos.

“I’m looking for an affordable laptop.” I stated.

“Well, take a look at everything on this shelf and let me know if anything catches your eye.” He replied.

I immediately spotted a small laptop on the third shelf. It looked to be in good condition, maybe even fairly new.

“Let me see that one.” I said, pointing my finger.

The man placed the computer on the counter in front of me.

I asked, “How much is this?” As I opened the laptop and turned it on.

“Two hundred dollars,” He replied, “but it’s over three hundred brand new.”

“I actually need two laptops like this.” I said, “Both of my sons need one for school.”

“Mom, there’s another one just like that on the second shelf.” Marc yelled, sounding excited.

The man turned and grabbed the second, identical laptop and placed it in front of me.

“Do both of these work?” I asked.

“They work, you just need to reset the passwords and do a factory reset on both of the laptops,” he replied.

“I have no idea how to do that,” I confessed. “Plus, it’s more than I can afford to spend.”

“If you buy two laptops, I’ll give you both of them for two hundred dollars,” he offered.

The price had piqued my interest, but what was I going to do about the factory reset and the passwords, I thought, hesitant to make the purchase…

My deep thoughts were interrupted by a male voice.

“Hey, Marc! Good to see you!”

I turned to see a middle-aged, well dressed man with a big smile on his face.

Marc gave him a high-five, then turned to introduce me.

“Mom, this is my computer teacher at school, Mr. Bradley.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Bradley. I’m Erin.” I said, as I extended my hand.

“Nice to meet you, Erin,” Mr. Bradley replied. “So, what are you guys doing here?”

“Shopping for laptops.” I said, “I’d like to get these two, but I have no clue how to change passwords and perform a factory reset.”

“I’d be more than happy to do that for you,” Mr. Bradley said. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

The man behind the counter handed over power cords and quickly cleared a space where both laptops would be accessible.

Before I knew it, Mr. Bradley was hard at work resetting both computers.

What I didn’t realize was the entire process was going to take two hours. Mr. Bradley diligently performed his computer magic, as we watched and waited.

Just before closing time, both of the laptops were reset and as good as any brand new computer.

“Marc, your computers are just like you got them new out of the box. The first thing that you and your brother have to do is set up your passwords,” he said with a smile.

Marc was beaming as he thanked his school teacher and gave him a hug.

“Mr. Bradley, I can’t thank you enough!” I said with delight. “I feel like I should pay you for your time.”

“No worries, Erin.” Mr. Bradley replied, “It was my pleasure!”

“See you at school, Marc!” Mr. Bradley said, as he headed out of the store.

I turned back to the counter as the tattooed man said, “That will be two hundred dollars, plus tax.”

I took out the two hundred dollars that I had saved for an emergency. Then I counted out the tax from the remainder of the money I had left after our visit to Job Lot.

I paused for a moment as I watched Marc wind up the power cords and carefully gather both laptops.

We were both smiling, as Marc held his and his brother’s new laptops close to his chest.

My mind flashed back to the smile on the face of the woman with the EBT card, then to the tears, and the smile on the face of the once homeless woman, clutching her new tablet, as she waited for the bus.

It was dark as Marc and I hurried to get to the safety of our car.

On the way home, Marc was a flurry of joy and chatter…

“Mom, can you believe it? I can’t believe it! I can’t believe that Mr. Bradley was there… and we got these two identical laptops… and it was just what we had to spend! I can’t wait to use my new laptop and I can’t wait to give Rocky his! He’s never gonna believe this! Thank you mom!”

“You’re welcome, Marc.” I said, “Just know that when you give in life, you also receive in unexpected ways.”

“I know mom, I feel like that lady with the tablet did today, and it feels good!” He said.

“I’m glad, Marc.” I replied, “I hope that you always remember this day and all that you’ve learned.”

“I will, Mom. Can I be the one to give Rocky his laptop when we get inside?”

“Yes, Marc you can,” I said with a smile. “You definitely can.”

 

I can end this story here…

But sometimes stories don’t end, and certainly true giving never ends.

Get ready for the grand finale…

Part 4

Could you imagine doing something generous, for an ordinary person, who actually turned out to be a Nun…

Sometimes, you’re called to help another human being…

Or, unbeknownst to you… you may be the answer to one of their prayers.

Stay tuned for part 4!

Erin Cooper Reed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1: The Power Of Generosity – The Woman With The EBT Card

Sometimes the most normal, everyday occurrences lead to some of the most incredible moments of your life.

These moments are never planned, they just happen.

I live for these moments. They are as raw and real as life can be. The situation may seem small or mundane, and one could easily ignore it and let the moment pass.

Not me.

These are the moments that come on like a freight train and before you know it, you’re standing right in the middle of the tracks.

You could either step away, or stand directly in the path and get hit with the weight of the impact.

I automatically make the same choice. Every time…

I react with my heart.

It was a hot day in Charlotte, North Carolina. The combination of the extreme heat and the act of taking three boys grocery shopping led to high levels of impatience and irritability for everyone involved.

I only wanted to get in and out of the grocery store without a ton of requests from my boys for things I could not afford.

Being a working single mother of three, is hard. It tests your limits on every level: emotionally, physically and financially.

This day would be no different… except for the heat.

Somehow we managed to drive to the grocery store without a major fight breaking out among the siblings. One small victory for me.

I had to tackle my shopping list without buying anything extra the boys would beg me for, or randomly throw into the cart when I wasn’t looking.

Surprisingly, my “No, we can’t get that today” statements, were heard and accepted without much backlash. I remember thinking my children were being amazingly compliant. In retrospect, I think my children finally came to understand, although their mother worked hard, she had very little means.

Finally, we approached the checkout… perfect, we were next in line.

In front of us stood a woman and her daughter who were placing all of their purchases on the conveyor belt.

I began to pull my own groceries out of the cart thinking, “I wish I could afford more for my boys…” yet, I was grateful for what we were able to purchase that day.

I jumped when the woman in front of me shoved my groceries back and slammed the plastic divider between our purchases.

“These are MY groceries!” she yelled. ” Yours go behind the divider!”

I was so shocked by her outburst I didn’t respond.

The woman began yelling at the young cashier: “Cold items go in a paper bag! What are you, stupid?”

“Really!” The teenage daughter joined in. “I think she is stupid.”

The cashier began to cry.

I glanced at my sons, all three of them staring wide-eyed, with their mouths open.

The young cashier began sobbing and ran out from behind the register. It was the last we saw of her.

A line was now forming behind me and I could hear people making comments and becoming impatient.

A replacement cashier entered behind the counter and continued the transaction as the security guard approached.

“What are you looking at?” The woman yelled at the security guard.

I heard Rocky mumble, “This is about to get good.” I nudged him with my elbow to keep him quiet.

“Ma’am, I’m just here to see that everything goes smoothly,” the security guard replied.

“You ain’t nothing but a fake cop,” she stated. “I ain’t afraid of you.”

I must admit, I rolled my eyes. For once I had made it in and, well, almost out of the grocery store in less than thirty minutes, with three kids in tow.

The new cashier hurriedly rung up the items and hit total.

The woman extended her arm and handed the cashier her EBT card.

“I’m sorry,” the cashier stated, matter-of-factly. “EBT does not cover, shampoo, conditioner and this lotion. That will be $15.98.”

Before the woman could respond, I said, “I got it!” I handed the cashier a $20.00 bill.

Slowly the woman turned around and looked at me.

Her entire demeanor had changed.

“Thank you,” she said, staring me straight in the eye.

“You’re welcome,” I replied. I collected my change and slid it straight into a donation bucket on the counter.

The woman and I exchanged smiles.

Her teenage-aged daughter leaned across her mother and also said, “Thank you.”

They gathered their bags and slowly made their way to the door while everyone stood in silence.

 

“Mom, why did you pay for that lady’s stuff?” Rocky asked.

I was aware that everyone was staring at me, including the security guard.

“Because it was the right thing to do.” I replied, “You never know what someone is going through in their life… remember that.”

But that wasn’t all there was to the story.

In the car, on the way home, Marc and Rocky announced they both needed laptops for school.

“Laptops? Are you kidding me?” I asked.

I had no idea how I was going to pull this off.

Then I met the homeless woman…

And the school teacher.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

If you keep yourself open to it, incredible things happen every day.

Much love,

Erin Cooper Reed