This story is by Susan K. Olson and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
What does it mean to be alone…really alone?
I often wonder what that would feel like…look like?
Working every day with people in an office, yet never really talking to anyone, feels like being alone.
They all skype, email, text or call without having physical communication or interaction. Go home to an empty house without feeling the need to care for someone or something. To have an empty feeling like you are no longer needed, or worth anything to anyone.
Sitting quietly in the dark, I hear a knock at the door. Thinking who could that be? My neighbors are not really that friendly, and I do not have family that live nearby. As I open the door, there is no one to be seen. On the step there is a small basket with some candy and a note. I step back inside and shut the door. The note read, “I care.” It was written with a red crayon and a little yellow flower.
Tears came to my eyes. Who could have left this? I had no idea.
Days went by, and I tried to be more attentive to my community to see if I could get a clue as to who left the note.
Another week went by. Returning home from work I see a paper stuck to my front door. It too was written with a blue crayon, and it said, “just want to say hi.”
Now my curiosity was peaking, and I felt the need to find out who is trying to brighten my day. Who sees the empty feelings I carry?
With these random gestures of kindness, my weeks ahead did not seem so gloomy or alone.
One month after I received the basket and my first note, there was a picture of a butterfly stuck to my front door. It was colored very neatly, in many bright colors. Written on it….”be free”.
I continued to watch intently. To see if I could get a idea of who was leaving with gifts of inspiration.
Several days passed and I was trying to figure out a plan to help solve my mystery.
Then it hit me. It has been a beautiful Spring, and Easter was nearing. I will make each family a little Easter basket. That may be a great idea to get me in the door, and see if I can find any clues.
I went to the store to gather my supplies. I picked up wicker baskets, green shredded grass, plastic eggs, candy and some pastel crayons. They would be different from the primary crayons that had been on the past pictures.
Returning home, I had two weeks to get my baskets decorated. At the door, a small carved wooden cross attached to a card that read, “I Am With You Always” Matthew 28:20. That seemed a little odd. My other surprises were home made with crayon.
Back to work in my dungeon of an office, no windows, or human contact I carried out my day. I became more anxious than ever to get home at night.
Soon it would be Good Friday. I decided that is when I would deliver the Easter baskets and play James Bond to gather clues as to who has been leaving me gifts.
Friday came and went. Nearing my home, I saw the bus pass and stop up the street at the neighbors. Watching intently to see what children get off, I hurry into the house to gather my baskets.
Anxiously walking up the street I thought, what am I going to say? Would this seem weird? The closer I got, I thought, I will introduce myself, let them know I just live down the street and wanted to give the children a treat. This way, hopefully, they do not think I am a creeper or something.
I arrived at the first house and rang the doorbell. No one came to the door. So off I went.
Moving on to the second home, there was a young man sitting outside. As I approached, I introduced myself and asked, “Is your mother at home?” He looked at me with a sad face, and
said, “My mother died last year”. I felt horrible. I sat down beside him and said, “I am so sorry to hear that”. After a moment of silence, I asked if his father was home. “He is still at work, but my
grandmother is inside”. He showed me to the door. I followed with a heavy heart for this young man. Arriving at the door, we were met by his grandmother. I introduced myself. “Nice to meet you Maggie, I am Sarah Jensen. Bobby’s grandmother.” “Nice to meet you Sarah”, I responded. Then proceeded to explain who I was, why I was there, and that I wanted to treat the children with a basket.
I reported that Bobby had told me his mother had died last year “Yeah”, Sarah said, ‘it was such a shock”. Emily, Bobby’s mom worked as a 6th grade teacher at Discovery Elementary and was having more problems with headaches. She felt it was just due to stress with the change in curriculum and having several students that were not English speaking. “She collapsed one day at school and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. She had a brain aneurysm that ruptured, and she never regained consciousness”. “ I am so sorry to hear that. That had to have been so hard on the whole family,” I replied.
Sarah yelled to a little girl sitting in the living room watching cartoons. “Come meet our neighbor Maggie. She just lives down the block. Maggie, this is Bailey, she is in first grade”. “Nice to meet you Bailey”, I replied.
She smiled and went back to watching her cartoons. Maggie excused herself to go home. “ I enjoyed visiting with you Maggie”,replied Sarah. “Yes, I enjoyed it as well. Would you like to come over for coffee next week”? Maggie asked. “I would love to”, replied Sarah. “Great, we will keep in touch”, Maggie replied. They exchanged phone numbers and out the door she went.
The weekend flew by, and Easter had passed. I would be done early on Thursday, so I called Sarah to see if she wanted to get together for coffee on Thursday around 3:00 PM. She thought that would be perfect.
Thursday came, and I was excited to have company. I made fresh muffins and coffee. Sarah arrived and we had a nice visit about everything from Bailey’s love of art to Sarah’s bible study, and Adam and Bobby’s residual emptiness for the loss of his wife, and mother.
“You’re in a Bible study”, Maggie asked? “Yes, we meet weekly”, Sarah replied. “ Maybe you can help me. I received this small wooden cross with a card that said, “ I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS”.
It was left on my doorstep. What does that mean? How can anyone be with you always”? I asked. Sarah explained, “The Lord works through people in spirit, who believe in and follow him. It is a great feeling of reassurance that we are never alone”. I was thinking, Wow….that is some pretty heavy stuff. As Sarah was leaving, she asked if I would like to come to dinner on Saturday. I accepted with a smile. We planned for 6:00PM.
Saturday came quickly, and I was excited to have plans to go somewhere and have human interaction.
I arrived at the door, knocked, and Sarah appeared. “Hello Maggie, dinner will be ready soon. Let me introduce you to my son, Adam. Adam this is Maggie, she just lives down the street”. Adam turned to face his mother when he caught Maggie’s eyes, so bright and crisp with a little sparkle. Hi, Maggie,“ It is nice to meet you.,” said Adam. Adam and Maggie went to sit in the living room to visit, awaiting dinner, while Bailey was coloring a picture of a butterfly and Bobby was watching TV. Maggie noticed the picture Bailey was coloring, had similar colors to the butterfly picture she received. Sarah came into the room and could not help but notice the joyful chatter and the softened, less strained look to Adam’s face.
We all surrounded the table and enjoyed a wonderful conversation over dinner. As it was nearing 9:00, Maggie voiced, she should be getting home. It was now dark out, and she had walked to the Jensen’s. It was only about a block, but Adam insisted on walking her home. Maggie accepted, as she did enjoy his company.
She arrived at her door, and they said their good nights. Adam asked, if he could invite her out to dinner some evening. “I would like that,” Maggie replied.
Settling into bed, she reflected on her last couple of months. In doing so, she had a good idea who her surprise visitor had been. A person that not only saw her loneliness, but the loneliness of her family as well.