MAGGIE’S PAL BILL
The Marvels live at 4510 Lindenwood Lane. Three houses down the street is a house with a very tall bushy pine tree. The tree is wildly overgrown and covers the front window. The front step is sunken in. The aluminum siding is faded to a chalky blue. The house is tired and neglected. This is where Maggie’s friend Bill lives.
Like his house, Bill is overgrown, tired, and faded. But unlike his house, Bill gets loving care and attention from his little friend Maggie.
Bill is a good man, not a kind one. He holds high standards for himself and he lives up to them. That makes him good. But he is naturally crabby, and self-centered. That makes it difficult for him to be nice.
Maggie loves Bill wholeheartedly. She understands what makes him tick. Bill told Maggie long stories about his childhood, during the great depression. He never got to play with the other kids. He didn’t have a bicycle. He often went hungry. Growing up poor can make a kid grow up too fast. That’s what happened to Bill.
Bill worked in a laundry when he was nine years old. They let you do that in those days. He and his older brother Sid would wake up at 4:00 am, Walk four blocks to the laundry to sort the clothes and linens. At the end of their shift they would each get a dime. They’d bring the money back to their mother where she hid it in a Quaker Oats oatmeal tin stored on the top shelf of the kitchen.
After that, they would go to school. Maggie thought Bill was the bravest person she knew.
One day in early December, Maggie heard an ambulance screeching down her street. She threw on a jacket and ran down to Bill’ s house. Two paramedics were in the driveway, popping open a stretcher for Bill.
She managed to sneak around them and get in to the house before they did. Bill was lying on the couch with Collier his dog curled up beside him. “Phew!” Maggie said out loud. Somehow she knew if Collier was still snuggling up to his master, Bill had not yet returned to his.
The paramedics came in through the garage door. They spoke very loudly to Bill who was silent. “We’re going to turn you over on your side Bill” the tall one said. Bill extended his shaky right hand and the other one took it. They transferred Bill on to the stretcher and hurried him out of the house.
Maggie lingered. She felt the need to be useful. She found Collier’s dog food and filled his bowl. She went to the sink and refreshed his water. She hung around until he was finished, got the leash, and took him for a walk around the block. Collier did his business and Maggie was doing hers.
Maggie is in the business of talking to God with devoted regularity. And with Bill in need, she doubled down on her prayers. It was an emergency.
Three days later, Bill returned to Lindenwood Lane. This time he came home with a caregiver, a very nice Russian woman named Anna. Bill and Collier needed help around the house.
Maggie gave thanks to God for answering her prayers of healing for Bill. She just knew her friend had more stories to tell. She also knew that even though he couldn’t possibly give it, he needed her wholehearted kindness now more than ever.
The most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.
By Susan Diamond
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