If you have liked the Facebook page I created titled, In the Garden with Billy, you have read about Billy’s struggles to grow vegetables. This year, Atlanta is not “hot-lanta” but “wet-lanta.” One third of Billy’s garden was unplanted this year. What we did plant we lost to rot, disease, or critters.
In addition to running a roadside vegetable stand, Billy’s daughter and I descend during harvest-time. We pick, break, string and “put up” beans. His daughter shells peas and slices okra. We sweat, work, hydrate and repeat.
Not this year.
This year there was not enough vegetables to open the stand, or put up. I brought Billy a box of beans from my parents and I’ve carried jars of green beans so he would have something to last through the winter. For you see, Billy Albertson does not buy produce from the grocery store. Ever.
It was this casual mention that Billy and I had not partaken of our seasonal “sammich” that triggered an uprising of goodness in a Facebook friend. Angie didn’t know me or Billy from Adam’s housecat, but she had read my book. She had tomatoes, giant cat-head size tomatoes.
So it came to pass that on her birthday, yes HER birthday, she sent Billy Albertson a box of tomatoes and peppers with a precious note tucked inside. Angie is what I call the goodest of all good people (and yes, in the south, that sentence is grammatically correct).
Billy refused to slice the first mater until I arrived. “I want you to get a look at what somebody done,” he said while pointing to the box
Billy had already written a thank you note, tucked it into the mailbox and raised the flag, even before we had a sandwich. While I sliced the tomatoes, he collected the seeds “as instructed” in Angie’s note.
Before we eat, we say grace. Billy and I take turns saying the blessing when we gather around his table for dinner (we don’t eat lunch, we have “dinner”). This time he said, “I believe it’s my turn,” then bowed his head.
Now when Billy bows his head, he doesn’t tuck his chin, he lowers his head, curls his shoulders inward, lowers his voice and says, Our Father, as we bow Lord, we want to thank you for another day.”
All of his prayers begin with this. He meekly approaches the throne of Grace. And as he prayed for God to heal my mother of “that terrible disease called cancer,” and as he said, “Father thank you for the many friends you have given me,” as he praised God for Angie and thanked Him for her gift, tears slipped down my cheeks.
Her gift gave me pause. Pause to hope that there is still much goodness in a world where everyone seems to be out for their own best interest. Pause because Angie’s gift was more than a box of “tow-maders.” She shipped a little bit of love as well. This is what we are supposed to do . . . give. Even though it costs a small fortune to ship a box. Give, because it makes someone feel loved. For you see, without the vegetable stand open, without those visitors clogging the driveway, Billy Albertson has been very lonely; that my friends was the message behind In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes.
This word is filled with hurting people. I can think of nothing worse than being alone. So today I want to say “thank you Angie” for your precious gift and for others who reach out to the sick and the lonely, “thank you.” If my blog posting has triggered something inside of you; if you’re thinking you know I need to stop and check on my neighbor. Please. Please, do so today. And if you haven’t tried a fried bologna sandwich, you don’t know what you’re missing. They are delicious, especially when shared with a friend.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Her latest release: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches will be released in 2014. She loves hearing from you. Visit her website at reneawinchester.com or follow her on Twitter at Reneawinchester