She lives alone in tiny, second-story rooms above a weather-beaten general store and now-defunct gas station that has seen better days. No one has used them for years.
Verna has been a widow for forty years I learned one Sunday after church. This wren-like lady without a car is always in church (when she’s well), and always smiling. “Why, Verna? Why are you always smiling?” I wondered, watching her lean on her cane.
The blinds at Verna’s windows are slightly askew, and the building she lives in looks perpetually deserted and forgotten. A lone gas pump sits stolidly out in front near the road like a paunchy, middle-aged man with nothing much to do except watch traffic.
The old, sun-faded pump hasn’t served our lazy little community in more years than anyone can remember. The cost of gasoline still reads 31 cents a gallon. It seems to remember a time when our tiny farming town boasted enough “live” businesses to keep the road buzzing with activity. Verna remembers those days well enough. Now business has gone elsewhere, leaving our village and Verna to grow old together. But I was about to discover that Verna was not a person who merely sits still and grows old.
I was having some neighbors in, and on a sudden impulse decided to include Verna. “How nice!” she beamed over the wire connecting our voices. “How very nice of you to call. I’d surely come if I was well enough.” She had been sick for a couple of weeks up there alone in that tiny apartment. I was sorry, and I told her so.
“You must get awfully lonesome, Verna”.
“Lonesome?” She sounded surprised. “Oh, my no,” she bubbled, laughing. “Why I’m never lonesome.” Now my curiosity was really aroused. “You see, I have all my good memories to keep me company–and my photograph albums too.” “And then a’course, I keep so busy with Mary’s boys.”
“Oh?” I asked, before remembering that she had a nearby neighbor named Mary.
“Oh yes,” she replied. “You see, Mary has 8 boys, and she works, ya know. So’s I fix supper for them boys every night. Yes. Been doin it for years now. It saves her a whole lot of worry, and gives me sumthin’ useful ta do.
Oh, yes, them boys gets me flowers too, on Mother’s Day. They’re like ‘m own boys.”
Now I knew this was an unusual lady indeed. And I began to understand the secret of her youthful exuberance for life. Verna had found something most people take a lifetime to discover, and it was less than a country mile from her own apartment.
The next Sunday, Verna came down the aisle, poking hard at the floor with her cane. My husband greeted her, “Verna, I saw the most beautiful pair of cardinals in our tree this morning! They would have knocked your eyes out!”
Her warm brown eyes brightened, and her familiar smile appeared.
“Oh yes,” she chuckled. “And you know, I heard the most beautiful wren song today.” She shook her finger in emphasis. “I get up early every day, ya see, so’s I don’t miss anything. I like to watch the houses around here “wake up”, don’tcha know. Yessir, there’s just so much ta see. And I enjoy everything God made—everything, don’tcha see?”
The secret’s out Verna! When I grow up, can I be like you? You don’t miss a thing! You magnify the plusses I seem to miss! There’s no need to feel sorry for you, Verna, none whatever. And you have no time whatever to feel sorry for yourself! You’re just too busy being thankful for every little thing.
Keep it up, Verna. We need you. Your sunshiny ways are bringing God’s light to a whole lot of lives–including mine.
The lovely painting of Verna’s house comes out of Linda’s other creative love: watercolor.
and Laura Boggess at The Wellspring: