I almost skipped out on writing a post this week because I’ve been a bit too busy lately. Busy with important stuff and “important” stuff. You see, I recently discovered that our library carries every season of Downton Abbey–you can see wherein lies my time management issue. Now that I am nearly caught up to speed with the most recent Crawley drama, I thought I’d come up for air and share a quick story with you. Because you all need to know about Carol.

A couple of months ago I met Carol, and she is now one of my dearest friends in our neighborhood. Carol lives kitty-corner from us in the cul-de-sac that’s out our back door. We would often see Carol out in her yard tending to her garden while we were out riding bikes or collecting “seashells” (vacated snail shells). Carol has the kindest eyes and a warm smile. When she greets you, her whole face lights up–you can’t help but be drawn to her.

Carol brings us flowers. She shares marvelous stories with us. She even invites my wild-banshee-boys into her house to visit her tiny dog (appropriately named T-Rex) and to play Legos with her on the floor of her living room.

Carol is 90 years old.

Carol and I are friends now, but we probably would never have even spoken if it weren’t for garbage day. Every Monday afternoon we bring our garbage bins out to the street for collection on Tuesday morning at the crack-o-dawn (I only know the ungodly hour they arrive because my children only ever seem to sleep in on Tuesday mornings–garbage day– only to be abruptly awoken by the crushing sounds of the ever-operational garbage trucks outside their bedroom window).

One Monday afternoon I was dragging our bins out to the curb and across the street I noticed this old woman struggling to move her bins. David (who actually adores tedious chores like moving garbage bins) and I decided to cross the street and see if we might help in some way. She smiled at us with those twinkling eyes of hers as we rolled the bins from her garage down to the curb and I knew that we’d made her day. We offered to return the next day after the collection so we could move the bins back up to her house. Then the next week we returned again, and the next, and the next…and now we just move Carol’s bins every week. It’s a simple gesture, but it has led to so many benefits.

For starters, there’s the friendship. David and Jacob adore Miss Carol as much as I do and she’s become a sort of surrogate grandma who dotes on the boys and worries about whether or not they’re wearing weather-appropriate clothing when they’re playing outside.

I also love that the boys are right alongside me helping Miss Carol each week. They are learning that when you see a problem, you can be the answer–and it feels good. Not because they’re getting anything tangible in return for their “work”, but simply because there is joy in helping others.

Surprisingly, there is another benefit I have gleaned from helping Carol–she helps me. You don’t live 90 years on this earth and not accumulate a vault of wisdom–and Carol’s vault is bursting. Every time I talk to her, she asks how I’m doing and what is happening in my life. Then she listens. I mean, really listens, to what I have to say. After, she’ll tell me about an experience she’s had (or that her kids or grandkids or great-grandkids have had) that relates to my situation, and we talk about what worked and, more importantly, what didn’t work. She prays for me (I pray for her). She says lovely things–like the time we were picking roses in her garden and she noted, “I’m glad for thorns because they bear roses.” I’m sure Carol wouldn’t see it this way, but she helps me in more ways than I’ve ever helped her.

And, so, that is Carol. I hope that each of you can have a “Carol” in your life–someone who you set out to help and, in return, have found great help from. Someone who is genuine and kind. Someone who will bring you flowers on a Tuesday. And even if you don’t have a Carol of your own, maybe you can be a “Carol” for someone else.

Go forth and pay it forward, friend–you never know what small gesture might blossom into something beautiful!

XxX Allison

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