Rundown Garden, Brand-New Friend

How one led to the other.

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When I moved to a new community—Amana, Iowa—I suddenly found myself needing a new circle of friends. My job was out of town and my children out of school, so I knew friends might be hard to find.

One morning I was out for a quick walk before work when a rosebush snagged my sleeve. I looked and noticed an old brick house that had overgrown plants everywhere. Lilacs, bridal wreath, grapes, flowering vines, fruit trees and, obviously, a rambunctious rose—all needed some tender loving care.

As I drove to work, I wondered if I should offer to help. Pruning was my favorite chore—the results last much longer than housework—and it might help me make a new friend. On the other hand, the owner might take offense if I brought up the condition of the yard.

Tears trickled down her cheeks. My heart lurched—I had hurt her feelings!

A few days later, I decided to try to make it happen. I put on my garden jeans and grabbed my trimming tools. I was a tad nervous, but I opened the wooden gate and walked to the front door. I knocked, waited a few moments, and knocked again. I didn’t hear anyone approaching, so I turned to go.

Just then, the front door creaked on its hinges. An elderly woman appeared in the doorway, leaning on her walker. The shawl on her shoulders hung over her long black blouse and skirt.

“My name is Dianne,” I said. “I moved in up the street a few weeks ago. I’ve been walking by your house, and it reminds me of the one I used to live in.” I took a deep breath. “But today the reason I’m knocking on your door is to ask if you could use some help pruning your shrubs and fruit trees.”


Tears trickled down her cheeks. My heart lurched—I had hurt her feelings! But then she smiled and said, “My name is Lina, and you have no idea how happy you’ve made me! I’m just waiting for a ride to an evening prayer service. I’ve been praying every day that someone would come and help me with my yard.”

“Well,” I beamed, “I guess I’ve been sent!”

Over the following weeks, I trimmed everything in her yard, then wondered how the huge pile of cuttings would be hauled away. “Oh,” Lina said, “I have a friend who has a truck. I’m sure he’ll be happy to do it.” Then she invited me in for cocoa and a chat. She told me all about her house, which was originally built as a schoolhouse back in the 1850s!

I became a regular visitor, and Lina told me many of her cherished memories. One of her favorites concerned the Easter Bunny. As a child, Lina and her friends couldn’t imagine how the eggs they hunted for each Easter became so beautiful. They knew a bunny couldn’t paint color on an egg!

But then one Easter Sunday, people were greeting each other after church when Lina noticed something strange about one of the older ladies who helped in the church kitchen. When Lina reached out to shake the woman’s hand, she saw it was marked with splotches of purple, blue, green, and yellow. Lina smiled. Now she knew how the eggs really got colored.

When Lina turned 14, she learned how to help dye the special eggs and become one of the Easter bunnies herself. She became so good at it that, after she’d become an adult, a local radio station brought their microphones to her home and recorded a cooking program where she very carefully described every step of the egg-dyeing process.

As fond as she was of dyeing Easter eggs, Lina was even more fond of a special heirloom rose. Every Spring, its blooms covered an eight-foot trellis near her front door. When Fall came, she asked me to winterize this treasured plant. I cut it back with my clippers, then flattened it as much as possible, and covered it with a heavy handwoven rug. Thus sheltered, it made it through the Winter and bloomed yet again the next year.

Over the years, I’ve received many thank-you notes from Lina. The one I treasure most included a prayer:

As you go on your way, may Christ go with you.
May He go before you and show you the way.
May He go behind you and encourage you,
Beside you to befriend you,
Above you to watch over you,
And within you to give you peace. Amen.


Through my new friend, I met many other folks in the community. I knocked and the door opened—for both Lina and for me.

This article was published originally in 2022, in GreenPrints Issue #132.


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