Welcome Reading Friends and New Subscribers! We pray you fathers had/have a blessed Father’s Day. Today, I have “A Father’s Day Memory Lives On,” but it’s not only for fathers. Friends, have you ever taken a risk to help someone else? How about someone you didn’t know previously? Did you notice God’s hand in it all? The following story is about a single mom and a little girl who embark on an adventure to help a homeless man. Sometimes, the small gestures we make will impact people in unimaginable ways. Have you creatively expressed the character of Jesus toward others lately? Check out this Christian Short Story.—David Telbat
A Father’s Day Memory Lives On
A Christian Short Story
by D.I. Telbat
Thirty-six-year-old mother Amy Bassett pulled over her minivan before she knew exactly what to say to the homeless men seated on the sidewalk. They sat on the street corner of Baldwin and Sheedy every day, looking for work. Amy’s four-year-old daughter in the back seat hardly noticed the swerve to the curb as they reached the end of their grocery shopping that day.
Against the curb, Amy put the car in park, then rolled down the passenger window. She turned down the sing-along CD that had been playing for Lucy, and prayed for God’s help. When Amy leaned across the passenger seat toward the window, she counted seven men seated on the sidewalk. Most of them were unshaven; none of them were clean-looking. A couple wore Army surplus jackets; perhaps they were veterans. But mostly, these men seemed an out-of-work, desperate lot. A cardboard sign had the words “Need Work” sloppily-written in blue marker.
“Hi, there!” Amy waved at the men. “Can you come to the window?”
None of them reacted right away, except to exchange glances with one another. She figured she wasn’t the normal type person or vehicle that stopped to offer them work, so she understood their hesitancy.
Finally, a tall man with a brown scruffy beard rose to his feet. He stooped when he walked forward, and one shoulder slumped more than the other. Appearing to be in his fifties, he laid a sizeable hand on the windowsill.
“Need directions?” he asked in a deep Southern accent. “One of the others might be more help. I don’t know this area real well.”
“No, no. I’d like to hire you to do some yard work. Um . . .” Amy fumbled for her wallet, embarrassed she hadn’t checked for cash earlier. “Twenty dollars. That’s what I can spare. Cash. It’s yours if you can do about two hours of yard work for me.”
“Yard work, huh?”
The man scratched his beard and looked back at the others. He was wearing an old suit that may have been expensive when new, but now it was wrinkled, and the jacket was stained. Amy didn’t understand the hesitancy. He clearly needed the money.
“Tell you what.” He noticed Lucy in her car seat, and Amy suddenly felt protective. What had she gotten herself into? “You can keep your money. I’ll do your yard work for you. What I could use is a good meal, and maybe a sack lunch to go when I’m done.”
“A meal?” Amy clenched the steering wheel with her left hand. A meal meant he would come inside the house. She’d imagined he would remain outside. Maybe she could still drive away and go back to pretending the homeless men weren’t there every day. “Are you an honest man?”
“I strive to be.”
“Okay, do you have tools with you or—?” Amy asked, then shrugged. She didn’t know what to say. “Any . . . property?”
“What? Oh.” He left the window and spoke to his companions. One of the others handed him a pair of used leather gloves, then he returned to her door. “Yep, I’m ready.”
Amy unlocked the door, wondering what kind of man was looking for work but had to borrow someone’s gloves. As he climbed into the passenger seat, Amy smelled mildewed clothes.
“Who are you?” Lucy squeaked from the back seat. She’d never been as wary of strangers as Amy had wanted her to be.
He waved casually to the child.
“Kevin. Kevin Grodin.” He fastened his seat belt but didn’t offer his hand to Amy. “Seems offhanded for a woman and child to pick up a stranger.”
Amy checked her mirrors. It did seem strange to pick up a stranger, but she knew it was prompting from the Lord.
“My husband used to pick up people.” She pulled into traffic. “He passed away four years ago, right after Lucy was born. But even with him gone, that’s no reason for me to, um, not reach out, right? I’m a Christian, so I want to help.”
“I’ve seen a lot of Christians pass us by just today. You can tell they’re Christians by their bumper stickers. But they never look at us.”
“Well, I’m ashamed to say, most other days, I look away, too. But I’m also doing this in memory of my husband, being Father’s Day tomorrow and all. He would’ve picked up someone today, too.”
“What’s that smell?” her four-year-old asked.
Amy felt her face redden.
“It’s probably me.” Kevin sniffed at his clothes. “Yep. Got wet last night. It rained. Don’t have any other clothes to put on if I take these off to wash. Sorry.”
“Oh, it’s fine.” Amy smiled to herself. It really was fine. She might need to clean the seat after today, but it would still be fine. Her husband, Jerry, had always said that following Jesus’ way of doing things came with a cost.
“Where do you live?” Lucy asked.
Amy considered turning on the sing-along CD again, just to keep Lucy occupied, but she reasoned against it. Lucy was part of this adventure as well.
“Normally, I’m a Louisiana man,” he said. “It’s a long story, I’m afraid, but this Arizona weather suits me just fine. I’m here only temporarily, you know.”
“Of course,” Amy said, figuring the man didn’t want to explain his difficulties. “I’m Mrs. Amy Bassett. The Homeowners Association has been bothering my landlord about our yard. There are so many tree branches and leaves, we’re not even sure there’s grass growing underneath anymore. I have a rake you can use, too.”
“That sounds fine.” The man gazed out the window as they drove into the neighborhood. “It’s a nice day to rake. Not too hot.”
A few minutes later, Amy pulled the minivan into the driveway, which was bordered by untrimmed hedges.
“Lucy, could you please carry the smaller bag of groceries inside? I’ll get Mr. Grodin started.”
As Amy led Kevin toward the toolbox by the fence, Lucy cried out. She dropped the bag of groceries, and two cans of food rolled under the vehicle. Amy winced as Kevin returned to the van. She’d been trying to avoid involving him with the groceries. If he helped with them, she knew she’d have to let him inside the house.
Kevin got down on his hands and knees and reached under the car to recover the cans. Lucy held the bag for him while Amy waited at the van’s open side door. When Kevin rose to his feet, he took all five grocery bags into his arms at once.
“Lead the way,” he said.
Lucy ran ahead and Amy closed the car door. No matter how many times Amy had instructed the little girl to avoid strangers, Lucy was now holding the kitchen door wide open to allow the stranger inside.
“He’s as tall as the door!” Lucy said in admiration.
Amy entered the kitchen and helped Kevin deposit his load onto the kitchen table.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Grodin.” Amy took a milk carton and placed it in the refrigerator. “Now, Lucy, your job is to put the groceries away while I show Mr. Grodin his job. Remember: if it’s already cold, it goes in the fridge.”
Lucy accepted the challenge, though Amy expected a treasure hunt when she returned. But at least she could take Kevin outside to get started on the yard.
“What a mess!” Amy said, as she stood with Kevin on the edge of the yard. “If you could just rake up everything into a pile, from the gutter there to the hedges. I’ll bring you some garbage bags in a minute.”
Kevin pulled on his undersized, borrowed gloves and walked with the rake to the gutter. Amy watched for a few seconds, then returned to the kitchen—and right in time. Lucy was standing on the counter, attempting to place a cereal box on top of the fridge.
After Amy rescued the groceries from Lucy, the child skipped away to her butterflies. Lucy collected everything with butterflies on them—stuffed animals, coloring books, and lately, the real thing. The beautiful insects—including a few wayward moths—lay dead in a bowl, ready to be pinned to a cork board. Amy had given up telling her that little girls didn’t play with dead bugs.
“Oh, Lord, what do I make for dinner now?” she prayed as she stared at her shelves.
Her first instinct was to keep it simple—soup and sandwiches, with cheap lunchmeat. But, no. She hadn’t extended her hand to a person in need just to give him her minimum. Even if she was trying to be cautious about the stranger, she didn’t need to be stingy as well.
Amy’s best was spaghetti, so she pulled a container of homemade sauce from the freezer. Eyeing the pasta package, she could tell there was enough pasta to feed her and Lucy for several days. Kevin was a large man, however, so she expected him to have a healthy appetite. She decided to cook it all.
With dinner started, she stepped into the living room to admire her daughter’s most recent bug on a pin. But Lucy wasn’t there.
“Lucy, honey, where are—?”
She heard voices outside and turned to the wide front window. At the sight of Lucy holding up an insect for Kevin to inspect, Amy was about to knock on the glass, but then hesitated. She supposed there was no harm if Lucy stayed within sight in the yard. As Amy watched, Kevin continued to rake, and Lucy fetched a single twig from under a hedge to add to Kevin’s developing pile of debris.
After a few minutes of Lucy delicately making twig contributions, she cried out in pain, shaking her hand. Kevin laid his rake down to investigate. He bowed over to examine a minor cut or sliver. Amy didn’t see any sign of blood, so she guessed Lucy’s wound wasn’t serious.
Kevin tugged off his work gloves and fit them onto Lucy’s small hands. The gesture made Amy smile. Still at the window, she watched as Kevin used exaggerated motions to explain how Lucy could pick up the dead vegetation from under the hedges by using her gloved hands. He used his own hands to scrape together leaves and pick them up with both hands to show her how. Lucy immediately responded and deposited her collection onto his pile. Now better coordinated with his little helper, Kevin returned to his raking.
Amy felt a deep ache in her heart. She knew picking up twigs and leaves wouldn’t have been so unique for Lucy if Jerry were still alive. Their daughter should’ve learned from her own father how to work in the yard and how to protect her hands using gloves.
Through this time, Kevin never looked up to see if he was being watched. He seemed sadder than Amy had first thought. And that made her sad as well. Something terrible had occurred in the tall man’s life to bring him to the status of a beggar. Now, he raked leaves for spaghetti and leftovers.
The yard was finished about the time the noodles were perfect. Amy had warmed to the idea of eating their dinner inside at the round dining table, so she set it for three.
“Dinner’s ready!” she called to the yard crew, and held the door open as they marched inside. “Wash up, and we’re ready to eat.”
After using the kitchen sink to wash, Kevin found his place set with the larger plate. Amy recalled Jerry using that same plate, when he’d still felt well enough to eat whole meals.
“Let’s say thanks first, huh?” Amy said to Lucy, and the two folded their hands.
“Mr. Grodin can say thanks,” Lucy volunteered for him, and promptly bowed her head.
Amy smiled apologetically as the bearded man’s face stared blankly back, but then he closed his eyes.
“Father in heaven, we thank You for Your provisions and the kindness of strangers, especially when they act on Your behalf. Amen.”
“Amen!” Amy and Lucy said in unison.
“I’m a hearty eater, ma’am,” Kevin said as Amy picked up His plate to serve him, “but that’s more food than I could eat for three dinners.”
“Whatever you don’t eat, we can put in a sealed bag for the road. This is your night, Mr. Grodin.”
They ate in silence, with the exception of Lucy’s slurps and giggles, and in no time, darkness had closed outside. Amy bagged up the leftover pasta with the rest of the sauce, and Kevin stood at the side entrance. He’d already volunteered to walk back into the city, which was only a couple of miles. After all, Lucy was already dosing at the dining table.
“Maybe I could call on you again sometime for more work?” Amy asked as she handed him his leftovers.
“I’ll be headed back to Louisiana real shortly, I think.” He lifted the bag of the spaghetti. “But this is really more than expected. The fellas at the corner won’t be expecting me to return with dinner for everyone.”
“You’ll spread it around?” Amy wanted to cry.
“No sense in keeping it all to myself. In no time, I’ll be back home in Louisiana, fixing my own food. It’ll be harder for them, I suspect. They’ll appreciate it.”
“Well, then, these will help.” Amy pulled a stack of paper plates from a kitchen shelf. “Take them. I don’t think you can share spaghetti without plates.”
“That’s real nice, ma’am. You and the little one take care now. This has been a special afternoon. Memorable, I should say.”
Though Amy wanted to give the smelly man a hug, she shook his hand firmly, and he left. With a burdened heart, she locked the door and leaned against it for a moment.
“I should’ve done more for him, Lord. I’m . . . out of practice.”
Her mind drifted to the things belonging to her husband, Jerry. Things she still stored for sentimental reasons, but no longer needed to keep. Yes, she would do more. Her faith was not dead!
After she carried Lucy to bed, Amy cleared the table and found Kevin’s borrowed gloves that he’d left behind. The memory made her smile. The stranger had borrowed the gloves to protect his hands, but had in turn put them on Lucy to protect hers.
The next day, she boxed up Jerry’s clothes and took them down to the corner. She knew Jerry would’ve been pleased with this decision. Though she didn’t find Kevin, there were others who eagerly received the clothes as Lucy helped disperse them.
The days passed, and Amy prayed with Lucy as to how God wanted them to proceed with helping others. Amy didn’t make much money waitressing part time at the restaurant while Lucy was in preschool. Jerry’s life insurance money had all but run out. They couldn’t bring all the homeless people into their home, but they decided they could take food to the homeless. They started with homemade sandwiches, and handed them out to the men on the corner of Baldwin and Sheedy each weekend, where they’d picked up Kevin Grodin.
A couple of months after the spaghetti dinner, Amy opened an email from a real estate development firm in Louisiana. The letter stated that her home had been bought by a third party, and she was being instructed to postpone all rent payments until otherwise informed.
Amy saw the temporary pause of paying rent as God’s way of providing more funds for their homeless ministry. But after two months of receiving no further word, she wrote the firm seeking their instructions, but no one ever responded.
The following year, Lucy started kindergarten, and Amy started working full time as a waitress. Gradually, her life shifted to emphasize her weekend endeavors in the city, with Lucy always at her side. Lucy’s antics as an insect enthusiast gradually earned her the nickname of Bug Girl, and she seemed to like it.
Another year passed, then another. People from their community church occasionally helped in their homeless outreach. A used van was purchased to drive men from the street corner to attend church on Sunday mornings, and several of the men were drawn from a life of drunkenness to a life of reformation. Others found support and work to start new lives. Lucy learned to bake cookies, which endeared her to the poor even more.
By the time Lucy started high school, a Louisiana philanthropist offered her a full scholarship to the local university where she would study entomology. There was one condition upon the scholarship: she had to keep helping her mother. Amy thought it was a strange condition for a scholarship, and tried to find out who the actual donor was, but the scholarship was endorsed only by a firm near New Orleans, and the condition was ascribed to as the wish of “the gentleman” who offered the funds. Amy simply guessed someone down in Louisiana had heard of Lucy’s butterfly cookies, though they’d never made any attempt for recognition.
One evening, Lucy was in her room studying for midterms in her first year of college, and Amy was soaking her tired feet in a foot massager after a long afternoon of waiting tables. A black, shiny car pulled into the driveway and a tall man in a blue striped suit climbed out. Amy toweled off her feet and watched through the window to see what the man wanted. He had the frame of a younger man, though one of his shoulders slumped lower than the other, and his hair was a little gray. He walked into the middle of the front yard and stood looking left and right for a moment.
Amy donned sandals for the late-autumn day and went outside.
“May I help you?” she asked as she stepped into the yard.
He turned toward her, his oversized hands hanging at his sides. She recognized him after a couple of seconds, but couldn’t make sense of his suit and expensive car.
“Mr . . . Grodin?” She chuckled and took a step closer. “Is that really you?”
“Good evening, Mrs. Bassett.” He moved to her and used two hands to shake her hand. “I see you’ve not kept up with the lawn. Or has that been Lucy’s chore?”
“Oh! She has no more time than I do, anymore.” She frowned. “You’re in a suit!”
“Yes. I had a business meeting in the city. Thought I’d pay you a quick visit. I have a change of clothes if you’d like to put me to work out here. You still have the rake?”
Amy laughed, but realized he wasn’t joking.
“Oh, well, Lucy is going to love to see you. Look at you now! Would you believe your old gloves are still in the house? I use them now and then, and so does Amy, if she has to take out the trash. Mr. Grodin’s gloves, we call them. If I remember right, they didn’t fit you too well.”
He looked away for a moment, and Amy reflected on her words, wondering if she’d said something insensitive.
“I don’t think you know that you saved my life that day.” He looked at her with his sad eyes, and Amy recalled their first encounter like a recent memory. “I’d lost my wife recently, and I’d given up. Just didn’t see any use in going on.”
“I didn’t know, Mr. Grodin. I’m sorry.”
“There’s no need to be sorry. For a few hours, you helped me to rise above my own problems. I returned to Louisiana the next day. Back to my business, my children, my life—but a new life. Loss has been a part of me, but it hasn’t kept me down any longer. It may have been a Christian meal to you, but it was a miracle to me. When I returned to Louisiana, people there had been praying for me. God brought me out of my pit.”
Amy wiped at her cheek.
“So, you had friends who gave you a job?”
“I wasn’t jobless when you picked me up that day. Just lost. I own many businesses under Grodin Dynamics. Did you ever wonder why you haven’t paid rent for the last fourteen years?”
“Yes, but . . . you?”
He smiled. It was the first time she’d ever seen him smile, even if it was still a little sad.
“How’s Bug Girl? I’ve heard from others about you two.”
“I see. That might also explain her scholarship, I presume?”
“I hope I didn’t spoil her too badly.”
“You have to come inside and surprise her.” They walked slowly, side by side, toward the kitchen door. “Right now, I’m trying to imagine what our lives would’ve been without you, and we only knew you for one afternoon.”
“And for the last fourteen years, I’ve been trying to find a restaurant that makes spaghetti sauce like you do.”
“Look no further, Mr. Grodin. We’ll have spaghetti for dinner tonight!”