B-Ball in Coverall
Betty had just come in to get warm. That was how it started. What did she know or even care about basketball today? She didn’t know any of the players. As I said, “That is how it started.” By now, she had visited several games and seemed to be pulled in by some kind of force. She had a couple of old broken cameras hanging around her neck, just for the effect. She would pick out clothes from donation centers and try to dress like someone involved with a school, ask when the game was going to be and saunter in to the gym as early as she could, hoping not to be noticed. There was always a place on the bleachers away from where most sat and she would watch.
Whether others noticed her or not, she was never asked to pay. Never asking why, she was glad of that. Betty Snyder was homeless. Someone might have recognized her, from the soup line or shelter and covered for her.
She had played a little basketball when she was in school but mostly to have more time to be around other people her age. Forging her parents’ signature and always with an excuse for their non appearances. No one at home knew what she did after school and no one at school knew what went on at home or, how seldom she went there and never wanted to know. Home was no place for Betty and only she knew why.
Had anyone cared back then, she could have told them, “help the poor homeless kids” people, a thing or two. When a person is homeless, they seem to be looking for something. It could be, that that something has to find them.
Even back then, she had that street sense. The great minds that had gone to school for so long and were glad to tell her that they would listen and then tell her what she should do, based, not on what she said, but their grand knowledge. Something as simple as holding her hand, and quietly listening for a few minutes might have changed a lot of things.
Once, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Betty had the privilege, of doing a couple of years in the State prison. After a while, found innocent and given an apology, a clean set of clothes, a bus ticket to where ever she wanted to go and “don’t come back” was once more, poor, hungry, alone and on the street.
Besides a warm place in cold weather, after a while, the basketball games gave her something to relate too. She could be away from her real life for an hour and almost like living on another planet.
Early on, she had singled out a particular girls’ team. Something about them that she wanted to feel part of. Although, not paying any attention at first, this was the home team and so she would be able to see them more. After a while she started to recognize differences. Instead of just a team, the players became individuals making up a team and she started to compare this team with other teams they played.
A couple of years went by and people started to notice her sitting alone and so engaged in the play.
One of the players had come to her at the end of the last season to thank her for coming. She had seen the team look in her direction more than once but assumed they were just looking at the strange woman she felt she was. When a single player met her eyes after the last game, started to walk her way, smiling, she knew she was in trouble. What could this girl want? What could or would she say or explain why she came to the games without paying? Betty wanted to run but felt glued to her seat.
“Hi, all of us have watched you for a long time and appreciate your attendance. You have no Idea what that support means to us.” Touching Betty’s, frozen in place, hand, “Thank you so much and hope to see you next season”. With that, the girl, seeming to know this was not the time for conversation, turned, walking back down the bleachers and back to her comrades, all giving a wave in Betty’s direction.
Betty sat there in a trance, until, from a school attendant who was cleaning and moving things around, brought her back with, “I’m sorry miss, but I have to close up and you have to wait outside in the hall”.
Maybe that was when things started to change.
Small jobs, cleaning, a couple of painting jobs, some yard work for a landscaping company, and so on until, one day she was noticed. She had been trimming bushes at a rather large house, several miles away from where she hung out. A man came out of the house and up to her, asking her if she would like a different job. Betty had been around and had heard this too many times, “No thanks, I am quite happy with this job” going back to what she was doing.
Hollering over the sound of the landscaping equipment, “My granddaughter plays basketball and said she recognized you. Said I should give you a good job as you are one of their regular supporters” Betty stopped what she was doing, sheepishly looking at him. “What would I be doing?” “Come over here and sit at the picnic table. I have already told your boss I would be talking to you. He knows me and takes care of our businesses, so he is very glad to cooperate.”
Sitting down, he started in, “To be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea what you will be doing. We run several businesses and have several positions needing to be filled. More importantly, we try to bring people up, explaining not only what is expected by us but what is expected or looked for in many companies. We help them with special training, how to dress, personnel hygiene, how to save, live economically, the importance of learning and investing.
What we don’t do is give you a free ride nor, do we make your decisions for you. You will be expected to earn your wages and if at any time, you feel the job is too difficult or something about it you don’t like, you are free to go or be dropped off at where ever you like.
Before you ask, we do this, for number one, we get back great employees. The other reason, believe it or not, we as you will learn, get a lot back from helping those in need. Although you are doing most of the work, we feel like we are part of it”.
By now, Betty’s head was spinning. She couldn’t have asked a question if she even wanted to. It was all so ,,, so what ? Crazy, not likely, but what ,,, or if,,,,,,. In her mind all she could do is stammer, if one stammers in their thoughts.
Jumping in, “By the way, my name is Lance, Lance Pierson. I have been through this before and have a pretty good idea, what you are thinking or trying to think. It seems like a very big decision but it really isn’t. I have told your boss that if you decide, I will take you to the office to meet some people, when you are through here, in the neighborhood and if you decide to try this. Remember, you can quit any time and be delivered back to where you started or where ever you want to go. Oh, and by the way, my granddaughter, who plays on the girls basketball team, wants to meet you and will be going with us.”
Of course, Betty went. It wasn’t like she had to decide or could decide. This was, “a non-swimmer, jumping out of a sinking boat, into a lake that held, who knew what.
Near the end of her work day, her coworker dropped her off. Cash told her he had heard of this guy and it was said, “Mr. Pierson gave many people opportunities” and he had never heard anything bad.
climbing out of the landscaping truck in front of the Pierson house, Betty started up to the door. Before she even got to the porch, the door opened and Mr. Pierson said, “stay right there and I will bring out the car.”
Mr. Pierson went after the Car and his granddaughter came running out of the house. Running up to Betty giving her a big hug. “I’m so excited. My name is Cindy. This is like watching someone open a Christmas present. I’m pretty sure you will be glad you made this decision. Grandpa isn’t the easiest person to work for but almost from the start, you know it is right.”
The car pulled out of one of four garages and they climbed in.
Almost immediately Cindy started in. “I’ll bet you are a bit nervous and as you will find, I talk a lot. Grandpa said your name is Betty. Well Betty, Grandpa says we should try to come to the point when talking, so I don’t mean to embarrass you but here goes”.
“I see you at the game as we all did and assumed you were homeless. Grandpa taught us to look for opportunities to help others, no matter weather they have more or less than us. This might sound kind of silly but you showing up at all of our home games gave us something to look forward to and to play harder to repay you and all the other people, who support us. You are like the Little Drummer boy and gave us your best. Thank you so much for what you did and for what you are doing. If you like this job, and I am pretty sure you will, it’s another feather in my cap”.
Betty was still reeling from the offer, whatever it was and now was struck with being exposed. She didn’t know if she would cry, jump out of the car, laugh or what. What she did, was just allow herself to be led but to what, she wasn’t sure.
Arriving at a large industrial park and to an also large building, she was shown around, introduced to several people and after a while, brought to a cafeteria. By now it was after most of the workers had gone home.
Mr. Pierson said, “Take at least a half hour and I will be back”.
Mr. Pierson told the two women, to help themselves to whatever they could find and for Cindy to explain a little to Betty.
Cindy grabbed Bettys’ hand and said, “I’ve been here many times and they have great stuff. You just have to find it”.
They both washed up in the kitchen sink and like two little kids, rummaged through the fridge and cupboards, pulling out lunch meat, veggies, half of a pie, some cookies, condiments and some chocolate swirl ice-cream.
Cindy made sandwiches, cutting them in fours and Betty carried paper plates, condiments and most of the food to a table. Sitting down, Cindy started grace which they wound up finishing together.
“I can’t imagine what is going through your head right now, but let me try to help”. Cindy told her some of the same things Betty had heard from Mr. Pierson. “It’s crazy, but that is how the businesses do so well. By giving away, and if it works so well. Why haven’t so many other places figured it out? Well, I wish I knew the answer to that. Anyway, Grandpa will find you a room in this building, so you can stay here for at least tonight and then, as long as you want. There are showers and laundry equipment, nothing very fancy but I have stayed here many times and it is like staying at a good friend’s house. You just feel cozy. Someone will always be around that you can call for information or to help you, if you want to leave.
Please don’t leave. You are like my own discovery and I know the rest of the team wants to meet you and thank you for being there for us. Oh, and by the way, most of the people here, came with nothing and are doing well. I give them credit for all their hard work and determination and we all like seeing people move up”.
“Oh, and Betty, I hope you will understand my candor. It is just a lot easier to get to the point and move on. We think you are too special, to put off”.
Soon, another lady came in, introducing herself as Page. “My mothers name is Betty, so glad to meet you. Mr. Pierson had a call and won’t be able to see you tonight but gave instructions to see to it that you are made comfortable and shown the ropes. A lot of this goes a bit fast so just hang in there. After a few days you will feel more comfortable.
Page showed her a small room with extra clothes she might be able wear. She told her, the laundry equipment is down the hall and gave her a cell phone to call what ever she needed.
Cindy interrupted, “I am going and hope to hear soon. If you can, come to our practice.” Waving as she is running out, “Love you”.
Page continued on, “Do your laundry, go back to the kitchen if you would like something more, get a good night sleep and someone will be by in the morning. There are always several other people in the building, day and night and all you have to do is scream loud, someone will be by.
Betty was still a bit apprehensive but, she was feeling pretty good to have her own private shower, in this quiet time. Clothes had been washed and she was off to sleep.
Someone was shaking her and talking. Waking up terrified,
“Where was she and who was this person”?
After a while her thoughts started to come, “you are all right” the woman said, “you must have had a bad dream. I heard you and came in to wake you. Betty sat up and the woman held her for a few minutes. Betty didn’t know why but tears started to flow and flow hard. She sobbed and sniffled and finally stopped too embarrassed to look at the woman.
“Don’t be worried or fusing. We all need a good cry some times. Let’s go down to the kitchen and find a cup of tea. Tea is just the thing at night.”
Back to the cafeteria where it seemed betty had just left, Helen Wendel made tea, a couple pieces of toast, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and cut in little triangles. To Betty, the tea couldn’t have tasted better, and the cinnamon sugar toast was a natural with the tea.
Feeling a bit sleepy she started to get up.
“Oh, I almost forgot”, Hellen said, pulling a small envelope out of her pocket. “I found this in front of your door”.
Betty tore open the envelope,
“Dear Betty, Miss you already. Be well and looking forward to seeing you soon. Cindy.”
With the letter was a cut out felt teddy bear. Printed on the back, “I’m here for you”.
Betty slowly straightened out the envelope and letter putting them together as if they were something special. Noticing Mrs. Wendel looking her way, she tried to say something but words wouldn’t come.
“Miss Betty, we need to get you back to bed. You have to be up and ready for work by 7am. Your first day is going to be hard but I know you are up to it. Don’t forget to set your alarm.”
The next morning, Betty was up and showered when someone knocked on her door.
“Hi, my name is Brian. I understand you are going to work for me today and with any luck we will have a lot of sun. I am supposed to take you to breakfast and we have to be on the job by 8am. Oh, by the way, we will be doing landscaping work today and I was asked to put you at the back of this building and turn you lose. Do your best to make something out of it.”
After breakfast they went out to the back of the building. It was obvious, this part of the property hadn’t seen any landscaping or even a lot of cleanup for several years. The area was about twelve feet out from the building and all along the back for about two hundred feet.
Brian told Betty, “There is a small building connected to the repair shop with rakes, shovels, pruners, hand tree saws and a lot more. Do what you can with what you can find. If you run into large jobs like big tree limbs, large rocks to move, trash to haul off, we can get that later with the power equipment. Right now, the area needs some direction and finding that will need to be done slowly by hand. The Trash you pull out, just put in a pile. Someone will pick it up.”
Betty went to the shed picking out a wheelbarrow, a rake, shovel, pruning shears and a pair of hedge shears.
Looking the area over, it was difficult to know where to start. She parked the wheel barrow close to one end and just started in. At first, she found herself a bit resentful of the position she was in. First day, hardly an explanation, in the back, where no one could see what she had done, and alone, with no help, after a while getting lost in the work, she forgot the time. Trimming bushes, cutting out small, invasive saplings, picking out a can or two, old plant holders, plastic bags and newspaper. Slowly, foot by foot it started to come together.
When she had started to clean and pull out the unnecessary vegetation mixed with the junk it was hard to see any sense to what had been planted so long ago. Now it was just starting to make a little sense to Betty. When ever this had first been done someone must have had a plan and a vision for a beautiful garden. As Betty worked, she got more and more involved in its design. She pulled out rocks and a few bricks that had ben tossed in the brush. Some pieces of metal, and more weeds.
Moving right along and engrossed in her work, she jumped when someone came around with a small tractor.
“Hi, my name is Ted. Brian told me to tell you it was past lunch time and for you to go in and eat. I will clean up this trash while you are gone.”
Betty turned and said, “I’m not hungry and don’t pick any thing up. I will tell you when I am ready to have stuff hauled away”. With that, she went back to work.
It wasn’t long, and Brian came out. To Bettys back, he said, “Hay, hard guy, get out of there and come out to the picnic table. This stuff won’t stay hot forever. I have lunch and was told to be sure you eat so you have the strength to keep working.”
Betty turned to Brian, just furious and ready to tell him to hit the road and noticed the picnic table, about 25 feet away, with a perfect picture picnic, set up. From gingham table cloth, wicker basket and bottles of something.
Immediately she caught herself and wanted to apologize.
They walked over to the table sat down, and Brian started with a prayer. After that, he started to take things out of the basket. “You won’t believe this. This is so appropriate, it is almost corny. One of the workers had company yesterday and made fried chicken. She brought in her leftovers and it is ours to devour.”
“So, what’s up with not wanting any help?” Brian asked. “Ted said, you were upset when he came along to help you clean up. Don’t you want someone to help?”
“It’s not that I don’t want any help. For one thing, I don’t appreciate being treated like a weakling woman and the other reason is, believe it or not, I might have some use for the stuff in the piles.”
“Like it or not, here, you will be treated like a woman, but that doesn’t mean a weak one” Brian said. “We all know that this kind of work can be pretty hard and sometimes needs more than one person. If you want, we can leave you to do it by yourself. We are here to help each other and it usually works pretty well that way”.
Brian was quiet for a while and then asked, “Well what do you think? Is there any part of this you would like help with?”
Betty looked at him, “after I pull the weeds, the ground is still pretty hard to get a shovel in. If you had something to break it up a bit ,,,,,,,,,,”.
“Say no more’” Brian said. Ted is your guy to ask those questions. When it comes to landscaping, we ask him. Ted is the head of personnel. He is on the board here and wears a few other hats. Asked what he prefers, he would like to be out here. I will ask him to meet with you when he can get away”
It was a short lunch and both went back to work. After about an hour, Ted came out with a tractor and rototiller in tow. Shutting the tractor off he said, “at your service Mam ,,,, woops I guess I should say Miss or something. My mother insisted I say mam but things change.”
Right away, Betty apologized for being so short with him and they got down to talking about what she needed.
Betty told him more or less of what she had in mind and although it would take a long time, well at least she could start in that direction.
Ted sat there a few minutes, in his stained and raged coveralls, over a white shirt and tie.
“I see no reason why you can’t accomplish that. It will take several weeks, maybe months and a lot of elbow grease but I can see it as a surprise to the rest of the workers. I will make sure this area is roped off and announce it is off limits for safety and entering will jeopardize their employment.”
He chuckled a bit.
“Also, I will show you a kind of junk storage area and you might find something there you need. We have power tools and this tractor is yours to use. With the bucket on it, makes it great for hauling and lifting with the chains from the shed. If you haven’t used one before, be careful and take your time. Tomorrow I will be out here with you, for a couple of hours and that might be a good time to start to use it. I guess you used a rototiller before so I can’t tell you much about that. Also, the other things you have in mind, I will work on. Right now, I have to go back in to my office. I believe you are staying here tonight and you know when quitting time is. There will be food and what ever you need in side and as always someone will be around to answer questions.”
He showed her a fenced in yard with neat piles of stones, bricks, piles of grass, from years back, tree limbs, a few pieces of steel, benches, old plant holders, buckets, flower pots, and covered containers with seed and fertilizers.
Betty worked well past quitting time and when she came back in, she found she was pretty tired. Almost immediately a well-dressed woman approached her, “
Hi, I’m Carla. You must be exhausted. I heard you are working in that off-limits area and we were told it is pretty hard work. They said, you were a specialist and would be there for some time. I am going to be here for a few hours. I have a little work to finish but first, I would like to help you out. If you would go and take a long hot shower, it will give me time to look up something to eat. I was told to pass on to you, Sweats. Shower shoes, are already in your room along with other things you may need. Leave your dirty clothes in the hamper in the shower area and come down to the kitchen.
The shower helped Betty feel a little less tired. Walking in to the kitchen she smelled something pretty good.
Carla had set a table with expensive looking water glasses, flat ware, and decretive plates cups and saucers, “I hope you like lasagna, and I have made us a salad. Dressings are out and what would you like to drink? I have made a pot of hot water in case you would like instant coffee or tea. If I can suggest, tea always seems to work good this time of day.”
Carla said a long prayer, thanking God for Betty, the food, the comfortable place and all the wonderful things in her own life.
Passing the garlic bread to Betty, Carla said, “if you were wondering, my job, or I suppose my main job is coordinating work and ideas with CEO’s of other companies. My work saves a lot of valuable time when meetings are scheduled. You might say, I cut out some of the fat. Translate wording and shorten it, toss out subjects that are not ready for discussion, and get a better understanding of the current issues so everyone is ready to discuss them. I speak three languages besides English and have seven beautiful grandchildren I love to spend time with.”
Carla let that soak in for a while, then with a smile, “That is the good part.”
Betty looked up.
“You might be wondering what could be bad about that “Carla said.
She paused, then, “I was in a gang of eight girls and three boys. I am sixty -two years old. Fifty years ago, I hated everything and I suppose mostly myself. By the time I was eighteen I had seen more than most people will ever see, three of my friends were dead, two were in jail, at least four burned out their brain to the point they hardly know me now and the others, I have not been able to find. I was tough and I knew the streets. People who cared more about me than I cared about myself, helped me along. It took a long time to figure it out, but here I am today.
Betty had finished eating and Carla had poured a hot cup of tea. A cinnamon roll was found, heated and cut into four. It was very quiet and a peace seemed to be all around.
After Betty drank most of her tea, she found, she was nodding and closing her eyes. Carla gave her instructions to head for bed. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve. Have a good sleep and someone will be with you tomorrow. God’s Love and Peace and good night”.
The next day, Betty woke to the sound of an alarm. Laying there a minute and finally realizing what it was, got out of bed and shut it off. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she hardly remembered going to bed. She must have fallen asleep immediately and now was feeling sore and stiff. A couple choices of used clean clothing had been laid out for her and she picking out a light shirt, shorts, her shoes which looked cleaned and some coveralls, she headed for the shower. The shower felt wonderful but not staying as long as she would have liked, dried off putting on the work clothes, throwing her hair in a pony tail, she headed for the kitchen.
Brian, Ted and a couple of other people, Betty had more or less met, were already drinking coffee and asked Betty to sit with them. A woman Betty hadn’t met, brought over a coffee for her with cream and sugar. “Choices are sometimes slim here so this morning you will be getting Oatmeal and a couple hard boiled eggs. Someone brought in more doughnuts than we need so don’t forget them.”
“According to Ted, you ran into more than you bargained for”. Betty didn’t know what he was referring to. Was it the conversation she had yesterday, and had that got around already? What had she said? Did everyone know about her past?
Ted jumped in, “Sometimes the less people know the better. I figured if I didn’t tell them about what we encountered out back they weren’t likely to let the information get out to the wrong people. After all, our business has a reputation to keep up and if someone were to get hurt.”
With that, Betty caught on and with all the business about quarantine and closing the area off, she wanted to laugh. It was like a fun game she might have played when much younger. She was building a surprise but no one but Ted and her knew.
Ted pulled out a large and very official envelope from his briefcase and set it on the table in front of Betty where everyone could see. “You are required to read and sign these documents in private and please get them back to me as soon as you can. Printed in large letters on the envelope were RCRA, In smaller letters, Recovery Regulations, Conservation and Recovery Act.
Take your time to read over carefully. It is necessary to get it just right. There is a pen in the envelope”.
Betty finished her meal in a rather somber mood, headed back outside and to the rear of the building.
Sitting on the ground, she carefully tore open the envelope. Inside were pieces of blank drawing paper, a few diagrams, some tractor instructions, a couple of drawing pencils and a box of colored pencils were included. Also, Betty found a note.
Betty went through the envelope and its contents, a couple of times, looking for the regulations, then thinking over their conversation started to laugh. Maybe she was still tired from yesterday’s work or it was the right time but sitting there among the papers, weeds and tools she laughed and laughed.
Along with everything else was a note, “I won’t be out today, to help you with the tractor but I know you will do alright. Just take it real slow at first. Read the instructions and have a Blessed day. Come in at lunch time and get something to eat. Take water with you and you don’t have to stay out so late.
Remember even though you might not be able to see, the sun is always up there and The Son is always up there.
Stuffing everything back in the envelope, she couldn’t wait to get started. Betty had thought about the tractor and what she would be able to accomplish with it. Going over to the repair building she asked about it. “
Ted called and said you would be by. The key is in it and it has been all checked out, filled with gas and ready to go. One of the guys will go with you, give you the nickel and dime crash course, show you what it takes to start it, remind you of all the safety’s and send you on your way. Any sign of a problem, just shut it off, let us know and someone will look into it”.
After some brief instructions, Betty jumped on the tractor and very slowly headed to the back of the building where she was working. She had driven tractors when she was working for landscapers but Ted had warned her not to feel she had to show off her skills. “Remember, safety is important here and the only mistakes that are hard to fix, are usually the bloody ones.”
The tractor proved to be a lot more then what she had expected. She scraped and pushed old sod and trash into piles hauled tools and equipment, pulled roots from small trees and lifted out some rather large stones.
Every once in a while, Betty would take out some of the paper and make notes. Using the tape measure, she found in the tractor tool box, she made some rough measurements, all the while working toward a plan.
This went on day after day, working by herself, checking out the tractor and tools, taking a little time for lunch, making more notes and always working much later than required. Always Carla or someone else would be there to greet and take care of a meal when she came in.
On her fourth day, Ted showed up, obviously surprised at what Had been done. Not only had she cleared out much of the old brush and vegetation she had torn up a considerable amount of the nice grass, doing her work. Ted thought to himself, it will grow back,,,, eventually.
Together they went over to the picnic table and Betty pulled out the notes she had been keeping.
“Do you think I could get some small plants or bushes? I would pay for them with my wages if I am going to get any wages. There are a couple of other things I would need also.”
Pulling out more papers, she unfolded a drawing.
Ted couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was for sure a drawing of the back of the building, drawn to scale with attached garden and suggested plant location as well as kind. Bushes and flowers had been colored in just as they would look.
“Did you draw this?” he asked. While Betty didn’t reply it was obvious from her red face and shy smile, she was the creator.
Studying the drawing over, he finally looked up.
. “I’m going to go out on a limb here”, Ted said, “I will order this stuff, have it delivered in your name and pay for it myself. I am going to get you all that you are asking for and maybe a little more. If the company approves it, when it is done, I will be reimbursed. It seems like a big job for one person to take on but for some reason I have faith in you”.
Several days later, Betty went out to work and found a large double axel covered trailer sitting close to where she was working. A note and invoice were attached. To be delivered to Betty Snyder. Trailer to be picked up in fourteen days.
Slowly betty started pulling back the tarp cover. It looked like everything she had wanted was on board along with a lot more. She could hardly believe it.
Starting right in, like she knew exactly where everything should go, she worked tirelessly. A hole here for a bush a plant here, some border. Using some long garden hose, she laid out lines, some straight some curved, slowly pulling things together.
Always careful, to make it in for lunch and always reminding others of the danger of coming into the area out back, and no one seemed to bother her. No one knew what she was doing and didn’t seem to be too concerned.
She was so caught up in the work she forgot about a lot of other things. Coming in late nights, showering, putting her clothes in the washer and finding them the next morning dried and folded. She would eat quickly, sometimes taking a lunch with her and start in.
Saturday and Sundays were supposed to be days off but Betty insisted on working Saturdays. After all, what else was she going to do? No one else seemed to know what she was doing and they didn’t ask.
Sundays Betty was always asked if she would like to accompany someone to Church. They would pick her up, attend services, go to a restraint for breakfast and return her to the company building where there was always someone around.
Some Sundays Betty would go back to her room and look through landscaping magazines, Ted had picked up for her. she might read through the Bible a bit, go down to the kitchen and get in a board game or put a puzzle together. Mostly what she liked to do was go out to the area where she was working and get ideas of what to do next. She would sit at the picnic table with her papers, that by now were kept in her own worn but worthy brief case. Go over them and make changes getting this or that the way she thought it should be.
Sometimes she would think back to her old life. It had only been about six weeks since she had first come here and she hardly ever left, other than going to church.
There had been a few rainy days and Betty was asked to work in the garage, changing oil, tires, fixing small things brought in by employees, and doing some office work.
After a little more than her 8th week, she met with Ted, telling him she had done about all that she could for now and would like to do more when the plants were blooming.
Ted told Betty that was a good thing, as they had some other things for her to do. There was going to be a grand picnic and a lot of important people were going to be there. Signage needed to be made, food prepared and the building brought up to shipshape. There wouldn’t be time for the landscaping project, for at least a week.
Betty didn’t take the news well. Although not saying anything, she felt she had been cheated or not given the credit or, well she felt like she had lost a friend. All that hard work, blisters, callouses, sores, this was like it always was. People took advantage but never gave any credit.
She hung on, not sure what to do next, making signs when asked, working in the kitchen, cleaning around the interior of the building and doing several other tasks but never going back to the garden.
On Friday, early, someone came to Betty,
“Hi Betty? My name is Fran. I am getting the ladies ready for tomorrow’s gathering and was asked to help you out. This is a routine benefit one gets when working for this company. It’s a chance to be pampered and get paid for it. That’s right, you are on the clock and so am I so let’s do it. Just follow me. A large restroom had been set up with appropriate chairs and it had shampoo sinks, previously installed.
When they got there, it was just like a beauty shop one sees on the street. Hair was being washed, blow dryers were going, the tinkle of tools and the rattle of conversations. Just sit here please, almost pushing Betty down in the chair and before she could protest, was being rubbed, washed, massaged, hair washed and dried things added and re washed, brushed all the while Fran talking, never asking nor leaving any time for Betty to say much anyway.
While all of this was going on another woman came in. Hello there, my name is Virginia. I guess you are my next victim. As soon as Fran gets through with you, I will be taking over. With that Fran started in again as though Betty might find a free opening to say something, Fran wasn’t going to allow that. Finally, Fran finished and within seconds, Virginia came in Grabbing Bettys hand, laughingly bringing her to an office close by. I am a dental hygienist and today you are going to get a dental job. I promise I won’t pull too many but we are going to make what you have shine like new. Well maybe they didn’t shine when they were new but we will do our best.
Once again Sitting Betty down, explaining the rudiment fixtures and furniture in order to preform this service, Virginia started in. She examined, did a little scraping constantly asking Betty to wash and spit in the arranged fixture. Tools would pick, a little grinding and a little more picking and grinding. This seemed to go on for a couple of hours and finally Virginia said, “I know you don’t want to hear this, holding that for several seconds, then saying, “we are done” and laughing.
“Thank you my dear. I know all of this is a bit much and for now difficult but your cooperation means so much to us. By allowing us to give, we get so much back.”
Once again, she was taken back to the room Fran was working in. Fran giggled, I bet you thought you had seen the last of us crazy people. Well if you will please sit down, we have more surprises in store.
A woman came by, taking off Bettys shoes while Fran put a hot towel over her face. Sweetie, would you mind putting your feet in this water for a little while? Just sit back and dream of being out on the beach in the warm sand.
By now that was pretty easy for Betty to do. She was feeling limp from all the attention and would have liked to go back to her room for a nap. This was a work day and why did they pick this day. Oh well, it was just too much trouble to think right now.
After a while Betty felt someone pull her feet out of the warm water, dry them off and start rubbing them with sandpaper or something rough. At the same time, they were massaging them and it felt so good she didn’t even want to open her eyes. Than they were trimming her toe nails at the same time another woman was working on her fingernails. The feel of the rough board doing the finishing on the nails almost tickled. Than there was the smell of what she assumed to be polish.
While all the foot and fingernail work were going on, Fran was giving her a facial.
Finally, it was over, or so she thought. We have yet more for you and you are going to like this even more. Down the hall and around the corner, they went into a large room that was usually used for a meeting room.
Four women and a man were there, waiting for,,, ? Her,, it appeared.
Miss Snyder, have you ever worn heels? Of any height that is?
Betty might have somewhere but ,,”No!, never”
Will you please sit here? Her foot was measured by the man, while two of the women talked about what might work and a pair from a large assortment of boxes was chosen.
They were put on Bettys feet and asking her to stand. After some discussion, and a couple of changes, a pair was chosen that seemed to work. Standing on the shoes was not the least comfortable for Betty. Between feeling like she was going to either fall frontwards or to one side or the other, the shoe was tight on her foot. She was asked to walk up and back a number of times and yet another pair was chosen. These seemed to be a little better but still she was unsteady. Someone on each side holding her, while she was walked up and back many times, taking a rest, having a cold drink, the feet being massaged, lotion applied and back at it walking more. Betty had a determination and after a few hours of this regiment she was looking pretty good. She wasn’t ready to run through the airport after that elusive friend but she had the idea.
All the while these evets were going on, Betty was constantly reminded that this would help her one day to get to wherever she wanted to go. This wouldn’t change her inside but once in a while it might help her to feel the great person God knew she was. Well Betty listened but inside, really wasn’t hearing much of it. She had been on the streets too long to ever think she could do or be anything great.
She knew better but if these silly people wanted to believe they were making a difference, at least for now, she would let them.
They told her how to pronounce certain words, told her words to avoid and reminded that at times it was best to say very little. The part of that that stuck was, “At least until she had thought over what was being said”
She had noticed how people would always try to get into a conversation, even if it meant interrupting someone else. She also knew that many conversations came up to nothing, so why not wait?
She went to the kitchen and had something to eat, trying not to mess up her nails. What did it matter anyway? Whoever was coming tomorrow, wouldn’t be looking at “her” nails. They wouldn’t be looking at her but still these people had been pretty nice, so they deserved to have her act and look proper. She would try her best.
Bed time didn’t come soon enough and she wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Why couldn’t she just go back to the work she was doing, while the rest of the employees had their celebration or welcomed, whoever was coming. A little reading and she was off to sleep.
What seemed like only a short while and her alarm was going off. She was told to leave it far away from the bed so she would have to get out to answer and make it that much more difficult to go back to sleep.
Up and in the shower, remembering too late about her nails, hoped she hadn’t messed them up too bad. Still wearing her sweats as she was told, went to the kitchen, someone bringing a coffee and telling her to sit down. It seemed like people didn’t think she was capable of doing anything and treating her like she was going to die or be really sick soon.
A few bowls of fruit had ben set out and there was cereal if she wanted. A few more things around but this wasn’t a restaurant or the kind of place you ordered what you wanted. It was just a kitchen and if you didn’t bring it or wasn’t left by someone else, you did without.
Sitting there sipping her coffee and almost dozing off, was pleasant. Betty had more time in the last few days, not totally engrossed in her garden project and she thought about her transformation. She had been homeless for so long and now was getting use to being in her own room. Well, it wasn’t hers, but it was hers to use. She had been paid for work. Not sure how much but she had ben told it was a decent wage. The money invested as she made it but could have all or any as she needed it. She hadn’t needed money because up until now everything had ben done for her and they would take what they needed to pay for what she used.
She actually had money and maybe enough to buy a pair of shoes or a pair of pants. Maybe she could take the train to ,,,,,,,,,,,,, to where? And what did she need? Back and forth wanting than realizing she had most all she needed.
“Ok lady, you are mine again, and just when you thought it was all over”. Fran woke betty out of her daydream. “We are off to the land of oz or to meet some munchkins and ferries. Come with me please.” Off they went to Bettys room where some clothes had been laid out. We have looked and sized you up and we are pretty sure these things are your size. If you will just put them on, don’t worry about detail, and we will come back in to straighten you up. Please hurry”
There was no mirror in the room and Betty didn’t remember a mirror anywhere. She looked the clothes over, as she was putting them on and they seemed like pretty new as well as expensive. Everything in place or as in place as she could tell, she called Fran back in. Two other ladies came along sitting her down they started on her hair, brushing and spraying and forming and spraying. One of the ladies was touching up her nails and all the while they were fixing and talking about this or that wrinkle of miss aligned piece as if Betty was a manikin. They worked for most of an hour asking her to stand so they could put on her heels.
“I think she is there” Fran said. “Oh my” one of the women said, “I wish I, was as close to their”. Betty asked what that was supposed to mean and Fran said, “never mind, we just like to talk”.
Fran got on her phone to Ted and asked if he would come to Bettys room. She was ready and would need some explanation from him.
Ted came by shortly as the women were finishing up. He seemed to be startled a bit, but after all, he had never seen Betty in hells. He asked her to walk around a bit and said.
“Now listen and listen close. You are a designer and work sometimes in the sign shop. Most of your knowledge is self-taught and you have only been here a short time so you are not sure of everything going on here. Weather or not you like it here is entirely up to you. What ever you say, do not mention your project or what conditions you came here in. Later I will try to explain more, but for now, for your own good, I am telling you, do not lie but do not, under any circumstances say how you got here or where you came from. One of our employees will be with you all of the time.”
Slowly the early hours passed and soon people were coming in to see the building. Rooms had been locked and others left open. Bettys room had been closed and locked. Betty and one of the women, Shirley, who had helped her dressing, was walking with her.
A man, neither of them knew, came up to them looking at Betty, asked, “So what do you do?” Betty just stood there staring. This guy, looking like a million dollars, might have been one of the men she had taken money from, on the street. He was talking to her, “I’m asking you, so what do you do? Coming out of it, she said, “I’m a designer. I design things. By the way I really like your tie”.
“Well thank you”, he said, “not too many people recognize a really good tie.”
“We are on a mission” Shirley said, seeing he wanted to have a little more time, talking with Betty.
“Oh, Oh yeah. I’m sorry. Hope to see you later.” He said.
They walked around a corner and off in another direction, sometimes ducking in to a locked room, Shirley had a key for.
Around 10am the speaker system asked all who could, to come out front for some announcements.
Please if you have them, change into some sport shoes or something appropriate to walk on grass. Lady’s, heels might not work so well.
Shirly took Betty back to her room and opened a couple boxes of sport shoes. Looking them over picked out a pair and handed them to Betty and putting another pair on herself. You have long legs and those look pretty good on you.
Out front there must have been a hundred people talking and milling around.
Almost immediately Betty recognized Lance Pierson. Standing on a quickly set up stage, he was addressing the group.
Talking for a while and turning it over to this person or that, talking about the various companies, the invested and organizations they were interested in, after a while, a lot of this you can read. We would like to make this a day for you to enjoy and relax a bit. Talk with each other through out the day but don’t spend all of your time on business. There are more important things than that.
With that, I think we should go out back to the picnic table and maybe spend some time sitting.
Betty froze. No one had been back there and had any idea what she had done. It was a mess. These people, this large crowed would, she tried to get Ted’s attention and warn him. What could she do? Walking with Shirley she was shaking all over.
As they turned the corner at the back of the building, what she seen was a surprise to even her. Several Large tents had been set up, with hundreds of chairs. Large coolers and an assortment of catering people setting up tables and bringing out food.
What really surprised Betty was seeing people crowded all along her garden, Pointing and looking so interested. She heard, “They must have had several landscaping companies collaborate to get this done”. “
“What an imagination”. “It all looks so peaceful.”
“Take a lot of pictures and see if you can find the designer.”
“I doubt if we could afford this for a few years but if our board sees this, I know they will want to do something like it”
She heard Lance, “to be perfectly honest, I did not see this until just now. I have been kept away as often happens. I was told about it, only this morning and had no idea what one, what one group of employees could do”.
“One group of employees”, Betty thought. These miserable @#$%. She felt someone bump into her, then. “Oh, excuse me miss”, and walk on.
Ted continued on and disappeared into the crowd.
Betty knew that was a message and remembered what he had said, what he had warned her about, in no uncertain terms.
About that time, Cindy, Mr. Pierson’s granddaughter came running over. Oh Betty, I am so glad to see you and look at you. You are by far the best-looking woman here today. Wow and wow. I want you to meet the rest of the gang. Waving her arms, girls seemed to come out of everywhere. Fourteen girls counting Cindy and all looking physically fit This is the team and one girl said I know you won’t know any of us but.
Betty stopped her mid-sentence, “Your number is seven, yours is three, yours is twenty-six and on and on she went.
“That’s awesome. We never thought you would remember us.” They talked a bit and gradually left, going back to the people they had come with, all asking Betty, if she would come again to their games next season.
Cindy asked, “so how are you doing and are you glad you decided to go with grandpa?”
“Can we walk a bit Cindy?”
They walked in the direction that by now had less people admiring it.
“I am happy that so much has been done for me but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure if I have what it takes to be the person Society expects me to be. Those people all have so much going for them and I have nothing.”
Betty had found an old mirror at least six feet tall and ten feet long. She had put it in the garden against the wall up on some large blocks and landscaped around it. It had taken considerable work, wrapping and bracing it, pulling it with the tractor and using the tractor bucket to put it in place without breaking it. It alone was a work of art reflecting so much of the garden and along the path she had made out of discarded bricks.
Betty and Cindy strolled along the path, Letting Betty do most of the talking. They came to the mirror, betty with her head down and talking about friends she had on the street who had tried to get free but always came back.
Looking up, Betty, for the first time seen her image as a cleaned-up woman. Fran, nor any of the other women had showed her a mirror and she had no idea.
Here was a woman she had never seen. Betty stood there staring and in shock.
Cindy looked at her, “what is the matter? you are trembling, are you going to be all right?”
“I never seen myself like this” Betty said.
Cindy didn’t understand and Betty said, “they have no mirrors inside”.
“Oh heavens”, Cindy said, “You poor thing, you never knew how beautiful you are. In a way it is so sad but in another way it is funny. I’m telling you as a woman, well a girl, you are drop dead gorgeous. When I said you were the most beautiful woman here, I wasn’t kidding. You always had all the stuff, and just now its shows”.
Betty hugged Cindy for a long time when Mr. Pierson came up and interrupted them.
“Betty, we have to talk and Cindy can hear this. Between this garden my group, who put it together and this beautiful, strange woman who is walking around, there hasn’t been much else talked about. I couldn’t tell everyone you did all this by your self because I could hardly believe it, they would only think I was a liar and more importantly put you in the spotlight before your time. This garden is going to show up in many newspapers as well as a lot of inquiries coming to our place.
I would love to say I or my Grand daughter picked you out and recognized your great skill. That would put a feather in my cap. You are a beautiful lady and, in more ways, than one. It will take some time for you to adjust to that.
I heard you mention no mirrors and that is part of our plan. We usually know what people can be but we don’t want them to see it a little at a time and not recognize it for what it is.
You have always been free to come and go here. We like people to stay around long enough to recognize their potential and feel the value of putting something back. I’m sure you know a lot more people out there who could use some help. One day you may want to do that. Most of the people who worked with you have been helped and now go beyond their daily duties to help others out. That is how and why, things work here.
No one here, knew you were going to turn out to be this ravaging beauty that you are. No one here, would have expected you to have the skills to design and build this magnificent garden, all by yourself but everyone knew you had potential to be better than you were. Oh, and by the way, I did not tell anyone that you were the designer of this garden but, you have been offered several, jobs that would pay a lot more than you would likely dream. If I told people, the designer of this garden was also the person who single handedly built it, any ideas of you would be gone. No one as much of a lady as you could ever do this, at least in most eyes.
As the inquiries about the designer started to show up on Lance Pierson’s desk, he came up with an idea. Talking with Betty he decided to put her in business. She could work from his building get requests from people wanting designs. Take the ones she wanted and felt she could do, while charging the appropriate amount. Pay his company for the services they were offering her while they helped her along. She would gradually move into the company community, getting her own apartment and they would send her to school allowing her to pay them back as she could. Everyone would win. They had couriers going out from time to time and they could take pictures of areas and or places for her, do some of the homework for the designs and meetings could be arranged at their place and so on. There would be plenty of time to let the world know of her single-handed accomplishments after she moved along a little further.
One day, Lance, wanting to do more for the street people as Betty called them, asked her if she would like to go out and meet some of them.
Betty and Lance Pierson went to her old neighborhood. They dressed in clothes that would be a little more fitting in that neighborhood. Lance Pierson wore a ball cap and Betty wore a stocking cap, with long sides, Pulling her hair up under it. They made sure their clothes looked worn and abused. Parking the car several blocks away and walking to where she told him she hung out. The neighborhood was typically run down and wearing what they did, they were hardly noticed. Walking around they met several people, Lance, trying to draw several into a conversation. Some really didn’t want to talk much and the few that recognize her, noticed that she cleaned up a bit and were acting as though they were afraid of her. She tried to tell a couple of them about her changes, careful to only tell them a little bit and see if she could draw them in. She was disappointed to find, most of street people, would rather stay in the life, they were in. They walked around the good part of the day, a couple of times buying a bottle of water, wrapping it in a brown paper bag to look like they were drinking alcohol just to add to the disguise. They walked down alleys behind buildings around trash containers. All the while Lance was learning a great deal. Betty on the other hand was only experiencing more and more disappointment. By the time they left both lives had been changed considerably. Lance decided that at least once or twice a week they would meet at some convenient time and discuss their visit this day, as well as what might be done to change things. Betty felt as if she had left something she would never be welcomed back to.
When the season came around, Betty started attending the basketball games. While Betty was attending the basketball games the girls gradually pulled her in to be an assistant coach. She had long ago, read and worshiped Betty Faith Janes, who had done so much for woman’s basketball. She had read about people like Senda Berenson, Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoops, and many more. She knew a little about women in basketball.
Working part-time she turned out to be a great assistant coach. Betty always dressed down, looking like anything but the beautiful lady she was. Some of that was from embarrassment and some to keep the male eyes on the game rather than her. There was one guy in the stand who seem to want to become familiar with her but not for any romantic reasons but rather he seemed to want to tell her, how the girls should be coached. Not a very a nice guy but very annoying, always hollering out what should’ve been done what could’ve been done. Even after the game, he would angrily holler to her, things he seen as wrong as if it were her fault that the team didn’t score as well as he thought they should.
One day, the girls asked her to show up in the locker room about a half hour early. Although she was only the assistant coach, Betty had stayed with them, many nights after school coaxing and encouraging them in their practice. The results were astounding. They were getting much better. Figuring they were going to give her some kind of plaque or Card, to show their appreciation, she made sure to be there.
Walking into the locker room she met with what she had been expecting. Signs, “happy Betty Day” “Thank you, assistant coach Betty” “Go Betty” “You’re the best, Betty” and more. All the girls attacked her hugging her and telling her how much they appreciated her. The coach standing back, waited for the roar to go down and finally with hands raised to indicate quiet, told betty how much she had meant for, done for and was there for the team.
“I should be jealous of all the attention my assistant is getting but you have made me look good with all your help. If any awards come our way, you are going to be the one accepting them. There is so much more to say but for now we need to play ball.”
She handed Betty an envelope, quietly telling her to read it in private.
Betty thanked everyone, put the envelope in her back pack, threw on her ball cap tucking her hair up into it and followed the team out to the gym.
Just another game but this time with a win, Betty felt a little different. There had been all the same cheering and jeering, some so complementary and at times some so insulting. She took it all in stride. She felt, she was in her element. Being careful, not to give herself too much credit, she was glad to have been in a place where she could do something good. Just knowing that the coach was glad she was there was more than enough.
Betty had continued to stay at the work place keeping her little room. She had been told she could stay there for an extended amount of time, saving her from having to buy all the things she would need to live on her own as well saving on transportation and high rent. Although it was very simple, it had everything she needed right now.
Getting back there after the game, she sat down on the bed, opened her bag and took out the signs and posters the girls had given her. One by one she looked them over as if they were rare paintings, taping them to the wall all around the room. Still sitting there admiring these crude thankyou’s, she remembered the letter.
Pulling out the envelope, tore it open, expecting a little more of a formal thank you, was surprised to find an old looking letter, that appeared to be a legal document with an embossed heading.
Dear Miss Betty Snyder
Some months ago, your name came up and going over your history here at school and your disappearance some of us decided it was time to send some prayers up for you. You have been mentioned in Masses and in our daily prayers. Only in recent days, were our prayers answered and we were able to find an address where you might be reached. I, all of us are hoping this finds you in good health.
In your last year here at school, you received several awards. For best teamwork, most rebounds and best attitude. You made a big impact on the team and many teams to follow. You disappeared, before you could be awarded properly and we are just now finding you.
We understand privacy and have done our best to keep it that way, until and if you chose to come and visit us.
The time you spent here continues to generate good qualities. Your record is still shining and is looked on by many of our students as a goal to shoot for.
God be with you,
Margaret Patriot, School Administrator
Betty did her design work and gradually became more comfortable with it. By now she had several months of schooling as well as on-the-job training. Dealing with customers was easy enough, although one man could be quite rude and very irritating. Nothing she could do ever seem to be right for him even though he would call back for another job after the first one was completed. She brought it up to him on the phone, one day, mentioning that his attitude could be a little bit better. His reply was that he’d like to have things done well and if that was too much for, she should get somebody else to do her job. Said his name was Rick Dryden and she needed to remember that.
One day this Rick Dryden showed up at the reception desk, asking to see the designer of his latest project. Didn’t have a lot of time and he wasn’t about to accept, “she would call him later”. He had important things to discuss and they needed to be discussed now, like it or not.
Betty was contacted and advised as to who was wanting to see her.
“The man is quite rude and he won’t take no for an answer. It’s totally up to you whether you want to talk to him or not. If it were me, I would have no trouble making that decision”.
Betty had no trouble making the decision but unlike the receptionist, she wanted to see this person. She had a few things to say to him.
Betty said, “it is not a problem, that’s fine, can you have someone walk him back to my office”?
Betty was ready for this. She had quite a few things to say. Hearing the footsteps coming down the hall Betty looked up and who should this Rick Dryden be, but the same man who constantly tried telling her what to do, at the basketball games. Both of them just stared. Betty started in telling him, once again, what she thought of his attitude. Rick stood there, continuing to stare. When she was done, he said, “I can’t believe it is you. You look so, so different and I had no idea”. Rick reached in his pocket and pulled out a card, handing it to her without saying another word.
Taking the card and looking at Rick, she said, “what’s this?”
Opening the card, she read,
I wanted to take this opportunity to apologize for my attitude. I have been under considerable strain the past year but I know, that is no excuse. You, on the other hand, have done a terrific job, designing for me and making my work much easier. You have been a professional and I have not. I Hope you will accept my apology, have lunch with me and allow me to explain a few things.
With all my respect,
Rick just stood there looking kind of sheepish, while Betty just sat at her desk, looking at the letter. Finally, Rick, picking up his brief case, said, “I just had no idea, again, I am sorry” turning and walking down the hall.
Betty called after him, “tomorrow, here”
Rick stopped, turning around, “what did you say?”
“Can you pick me up here, tomorrow at twelve forty-five?”
After a slight pause, and a big smile, ”I, I, Sure. That will work out great.”
The next day, he was there, right on time, driving an older pickup truck. I do have a car but the girls are using it and I know you are used to something much better than this or my eight-year-old car, but I hope it will due. I have a place in mind where you are not likely to see any of your people.
Betty had said nothing, either about his truck or the kind of restaurant.
They arrived at the back of a small place, off of the main drag. Walking in, she could see, most of the people were either gone or leaving. This had been the reason for choosing this time of day, knowing most would be going back to work and it would be quicker and easier to get service. The place looked like it had ben there a long time and there were a lot of corners needing a little better cleaning but it had all the sounds, smells and smiles of a place you were glad to be.
The waitress came carrying two glasses of water,
“Hi, I have never seen you in here before. Rick usually only brings his clients in in the morning when he’s hung over and grouchy. Be careful of him, He’s wanted in six states for murder and stealing lunches, from little kids.”
Betty laughed and said, “Don’t bring any steak knives and I will keep an eye on my purse”.
“I’m sorry” Rick said. “I knew you wouldn’t usually go to a place like this and you might not want to be seen with a guy like me, and well, there it is.”
Over lunch, Rick told Betty about losing his wife to cancer, a little more than a year ago and two of the girls, playing on the basketball team, where his daughters. Trying to keep up with them and do a good job at his work, trying to have time to mourn the loss of his wife, and trying to be the best father he could for his two daughters, was very difficult.
Rick said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever had any hard times in your life, and it shouldn’t be a reason to take it out on somebody else, but it seems like, I became a person even I didn’t like very much. I knew it was no way to be but I just couldn’t seem to change. It was like being in a hole that I just could not climb out of. Do you have any idea what that is like? That is really not a question but I guess what I’m saying, I couldn’t expect anyone else to understand and I had no reason to be the way I was.”
Betty sat there looking into his eyes. Even though she had heard from this guy for the last year, she really had only just met him. Why did she want to say anything to him? Rick started again to say something and Betty put her hand up, stopping his conversation. Continuing to look straight into his eyes, she said,
“I have been a homeless person living on the streets for many years, two years of that time was spent in prison.”
Rick looked down at his plate, poking at the food scraps left there. “I guess you are making fun of me, maybe you don’t believe my story, and maybe,,,,, and maybe you think I’m” he paused looking up at her. Betty just sat there still and still looking him in the eyes.
Rick, chuckling, and then,” you’re not serious,,,,,,,,,,. are you?” Betty’s face not changing, he said “you are serious!”
Both of them looking at each other for a long time, breaking off into the kind of a giggle and eventually to a hearty laugh and from that, the laugh died off to a more serious mood, as they both grabbed for the napkins to wipe their eyes.
Once more Rick, trying to say something,” but you are so beautiful, I mean clean, well you’re smart and your great with the girls and they all love you and you don’t look anything like you would be able to survive and” he stopped, hoping he hadn’t said too much, saying “I’m so sorry”.
Both started to feel a little uncomfortable, Betty said, “I need to get back to work. I have quite a load waiting on my desk. Would it be possible to do this again tomorrow and could you come to my office around noon? I will arrange the location?
Rick agreed, saying, “I am already looking forward to that.”
Rick showed up the next day. The receptionist, called Betty and she asked to have him come back to her office. Arriving there, Betty pointed to a chair and said, “would you please take off your shoes and put on these rubber boots. It’s a little damp where we are going” Puling on the boots, Rick stood up and announced “I am ready when You are.”
You’re not quite ready, please take off your suit coat, hang it over there and put on this long jacket. You will appreciate it later. I have to change and will only be a minute” Betty disappeared as Rick was changing into the used but worthy jacket and sat back down wondering what all this was about.
Shortly Betty returned but not the same person. She had on coveralls covering an old stained and well-worn looking shirt, boots that looked like she had walked the entire Appalachian trail in them, a hat with her hair pulled up and covered, and she had removed all her makeup.
Rick was stunned, and staring, “If that is supposed to make you less attractive, it’s not working”.
Betty flushed, “no, that was not the point, and thank you. Now if you will follow me.”
They walked out the front door, Rick starting to head toward the parking lot.
“Sorry Rick, but for now I have the steering wheel”.
Rick looking around could see no reason or place other than the parking lot to go for lunch.
Turning he walked with betty in the other direction around the side of the building to not much more than a grassy area and the next building. Still he said nothing and walked with Betty to the back of the building and around that corner to a sight that clearly surprised him.
Walking out a bit, to get a better view, “I have seen pictures of this but had no idea it was here. Why is it so hidden? Holy Smackerel!, this is even more incredible in real life, who designed, what landscaping company did all of this. This is all so fantastic, and to be hidden at the back of your building. I have seen pictures of, the before and after but nothing about the process or the construction” I am so glad you brought me here.”
Some distance away, was a picnic table with a large cardboard box.
“Come with me”, Betty said, walking over to the table and opening the box. She pulled out a table cloth, handing it to Rick. Together they spread out the cloth and continued to take the rest of the contents out of the box. They sat, Betty starting a prayer with both finishing it. This was all such a surprise, the clothes, Betty’s change, the picnic, they ate but said very little.
When they were finished eating, Betty grabbed two bottles of water, handing one to Rick. Pulling out a plastic bag of cookies and two brownies, she said, “lets go for a walk”.
They started on one end of the building on a narrow path covered in some places with wood chips, bricks, in some areas and stone in others. Strolling slowly and looking over various flowers, vines, brush and more, they came to a rough old bench about half way.
Betty pointed, indicating they sit. She opened the bag, offering it to Rick.
Rick took out a brownie asking her, “can you tell me anything about this place”.
She took out a cookie, took a bite and said without hesitation, “I did it!”
Rick sat there, eating his brownie and looking at the garden. What was she going to say next? Who was this person and what was all this charade about?
Once again Betty said, “I did it. I designed it, or at least God gave me the design. I cleaned up all the old trash and built this beautiful garden”.
“You will have a hard time finding that information anywhere and only a couple of people here know or have that much information. I am telling you, for a reason. I don’t like to toot my own horn and have very little use for people who brag about their accomplishments, but I had to tell you to get to my next point.”
“This garden made me what I am today and I believe it is an example of what it is going to take, to help many of the homeless and marginalized who are living just like I was and see no hope in sight”.’
“Instead of throwing out the junk, I used as much as I could. You will see an old mirror that looks great, only because you never see one in a garden or at least a nice garden and it is located to serve a purpose. Most of the junk and unwanted stuff I took out, I reused as mulch. If you put mulch above the soil it doesn’t work well for new plants. It has to break down first. Putting it below the soil, that is mixing it with the good, will give it a use and actually help the good soil grow the plants. Old grass sticks leaves and limbs have all been buried. While it is rotting, it is being used. It will hold water and also drain well if it gets too much water. Not only saving energy to move the mulch, but not having to store it somewhere until it changes to what we consider useable. Nothing happens overnight. It took me several weeks, working early, and until pretty late some nights.
People like me or at least, the person I was, need some of the same things this garden needed. Borders, a place to go and not just to rot or be stored. We need a place to feel a little useful and we need to be around good soil. We need to be around good people who will just be there setting an example and not trying to change us. There are a lot of shelters and places out there, I could have gone to but help is another thing. There are plenty of good reasons, not to go to a shelter, even in the worst weather. Many of the people running them are so busy taking credit for the great work they are doing, they fail to see all those falling behind.
We capture the rain coming off this large building and funnel it down the center of this garden in a pipe full of holes, which allows a small portion to escape all along the way. If we dumped a large amount in one place, it would ruin the plants. So, it is with the street people. If we just give them a lot of things, money, clothes, food, they are not prepared to manage we ruin them as well as waste a lot.
When I came here, besides, basic food, older clothes and a simple place to stay, I was given a very small wage. As I showed them, I could take care of things, save, clean my clothes, not waste food, they started giving me a little more. Eventually they paid me a bonus, plus a good wage based on the length of days since I started. If I would have been paid even a minimum wage from the start, it would have been more than what I could safely handle and I would probably have left the first week.
Maybe the most important part of all this, I cared about this garden. I was here for it, not to work it to death but to try and see what it would take to make it better. You could say I learned more from it than I gave it. That is what the people here did for me.”
Betty paused for a few minutes and then saying, “I know it all sounds too simple, that that is all we need to do for all the street people, but think about it. A lot of times, you see them helping when a car is stalled or someone is lifting a large package. You will see them hold a door or some other little choirs that they are not going to be rewarded for, but there feeling some worth.”
“Rick said, I feel like I have just been going to class with a beautiful person I want to merry in an hour. I want to agree with anything you say. I have never had the chance or maybe just taken the time to look at these people very close. In all fairness, why haven’t the street people told us this? Ok, of course, that might be a silly question but what I am trying to say, I expect many people don’t see it your way because it has never been explained to them very well. This is all so much to take in and I am in no position to even discuss it, for fear of saying the wrong thing”.
Betty said, “If you were standing next to a pile of rescue buoys, and seen a hundred people out in the water floundering while several others were trying to get a big, beautiful, rescue boat launched, you would start throwing. The rescue buoys might not reach any of the people in the water but who knows. If your little effort saved even one, wouldn’t it be worth it?”
“Now, it is my turn to get back to work”, Rick said. “I really do have some things to finish and tonight there is a dinner at church, the girls need to be at, and I am supposed to be with them. These two days have been a lot to take in. Even though my wife has been gone for over a year, I am still in love with her. Meeting you and spending this time together has been almost like a date. I feel like I am cheating. I would like to see you again, but not right now. I believe we both have a lot to take in and we need some time, so, let’s just say I am not going to give you the opportunity to turn me down. I’m pretty sure I am going to regret saying all of this, the minute I leave.”
Betty agreed that it was not the right time for them to be thinking of being anything but friends and letting God and time do the work.
Leaving off here, I don’t think this is the end and am anxious to see where it will go.
If another reads this, my hope is they will begin to consider the poor and marginalized in a different way.