What One Dandelion Did
by Jana Baldridge
In the early afternoon, the large Colin van pulled to a stop in the parking lot of the nursing home. It was affectionately called “The Colin Bus” by the family as it was larger than any car they had; at least it wasn’t yellow like a school bus.
The side doors flew open as Tonya jumped to the ground. Her blond hair immediately blew into her face, and she called into the car, “Ohhh- it’s awfully windy out here!”
Mom stepped down from her seat and shut the door behind her. “Tell Katrina to cover Seth’s head,” she instructed, holding open the van door against the wind.“I don’t want him to catch a cold.”
Tonya leaped back into the van. Aaron, 12, struggled past her, trying to carry the diaper bag, a music stand, and Chad on his back.
“Can someone get my flute?” hollered Katrina from the back seat as she wrapped 7 month old Seth in a blanket as Tonya told her to. A gust of wind suddenly came through the car, and Katrina turned around to see Dad opening up the back door.
“I have it right here!” Dad held up the black case, and before closing the door, grabbed two music books from the floor.
Chad squirmed down from his brother’s back. “Can I cawy someding?” he pleaded.
Mom handed him a music book from Dad’s loaded arms. “Here, try this, Chad.”
Katrina backed out of the van, shoving the door shut with her foot. “Seth and me are ready,” she announced. She eyed the folder, “ Mom, I hope I didn’t forget my music book.”
“Like you did last time,” Aaron teased.
“Okay troops, are you ready?” Dad wrinkled up his eyebrows. “Do we have everything? Books? Instruments? Stands? Diaper Bag? Children?” Katrina and Tonya giggled at this mention.
“I can’t believe how many things it takes just to do a 30 minute nursing home service,” Mom muttered. “I suppose with a large family you have to take at least half your house to be gone all day, right?”
The children groaned; they knew Mom wasn’t complaining, but she was forever jokingly reminding her family that she had grown up with two siblings, and not many things had to be taken when being gone for a day.
Chad stood up straight and saluted. “We’re all here, Daddy, siw!” he exclaimed, remembering how Tonya had once did the same thing.
Dad smiled. “Then onward we go!” Leading the Colin family, Dad walked beside Mom with Tonya and Aaron behind and Katrina carrying Seth, trying to keep Chad under control.
“Oooo! Wook at those pitty fwowers, Twina!” Chad suddenly lost interest in trying to poke Aaron with his music book and hurried over to the lawn beside the nursing home.
Katrina sighed and quickly reached for his shirt-tail which never seemed to stay tucked in. “Hang on, little Buddy; you can’t get dirty now!”
Chad squatted down. “Aren’t they pitty?” he asked, unaware of his sister’s concern.
“Dandilions get old after you’ve seen them for fifteen years, Chad. Believe me,” Katrian replied, shifting Seth to her right side. She grabbed Chad’s hand. “Come on, now; Mommy and Daddy are getting ahead.”
“I want to pick some dandywions!” Chad said stoutly.
Chad stared at the lawn of yellow flowers bending over in the wind, then squinted up at his sister against the sun. “To pick for dose old people in the nursing home and make dem happy.”
“Uhhh . . .” Here Katrina found herself strangely lost for words. What was their point for coming here to this nursing home anyway? It was only filled with sadness and hopelessness; a dreary place to just about everyone. A place where people just sat around all day either too sick to talk, or lifelessly looking out the window, knowing that they were placed here because their family could not care for them. Why did they come anyway?
To bring happiness, that’s what Chad had said. ‘To make dem happy.’ Just one flower —a big, yellow, common dandelion — could do all that?
“Alright Chad,” Katrina relented. "Pick your ‘dandywions’; but only 3, okay?"
“Okay, jufts fwee.” Carefully and solemnly, Chad picked three large dandelions, staining his hands in the process, and he clasped them tightly. Katrina followed Chad quickly to the front door which Aaron and Tonya held open for them.
“Da-da-da-da-da-da!” a voice exclaimed under the blanket.
Aaron pushed the blanket back to reveal a chubby baby face, wreathed in smiles. “Was Trina trying to keep you quiet again, little guy?” he teased. It was a known fact that Seth Colin had an unusual voice which he loved trying out in large buildings; the result wasn’t always pleasant.
Katrina giggled, then laughed out loud. “You silly — I was just trying to keep the wind off his head.”
“Of course, it wouldn’t matter much to these people if Seth was loud anyway,” Tonya commented, closing the door behind her. “They can’t hear well after all.”
“Tonya!” both Aaron and Katrina exclaimed.
Tonya bit her lip. “Sorry, about that; I guess it wasn’t that nice.”
“Hello Harold!” Dad greeted a large man in a chair in the hallway. The man lifted his head and his eyes lit up with recognition.
“Well, hello!” he answered. “You’re the Colin family, aren’t you?”
“Sure are. Do you plan on coming to hear us play and sing today?”
Harold smiled; it was a toothy smile which the Colin children learned to love because of the stories Harold told about how he lost his teeth. “I wouldn’t miss it!”
Mom laughed. “No, you never do, do you? Make sure to tell Miranda and George to come down as well.”
Harold was already up from his chair. “I most certainly will! See you in a bit!”
“He sure is a sweet soul,” commented Dad, as they traveled up four stories in the felicity elevator.
“What a soup?” Chad asked.
Katrina and Aaron tried not to laugh, but didn’t quite succeed. Mom looked puzzled, then smiled.
“Oh, you mean what’s a soul?”
Chad nodded. “Yes — what’s souw?”
“It’s your heart,” said Tonya quickly.
“Harold is a sweet heart?” Chad was plainly confused.
Everyone laughed this time. Dad began to explain what a soul was, but the elevator doors opened, and the family hurried out and into the activity room. Chad never did get his explanation.
Several ladies were already waiting in the provided chairs, and one man sat in a wheelchair, looking dejectedly out the open window. Seeing him sitting there, Katrina swallowed. The hardest thing about coming to the nursing home was trying to cheer up the sad.
“Here, you take Seth.” Trying to get her mind off that man, she shoved Seth into Tonya’s arms and took her flute from Dad.
“I’ll get the chairs for us,” Aaron offered, and he hurried off into the hallway. Chad just stood by Tonya and looked at each person that shuffled into the room carefully.
“Just a quick warm up, Trina,” Dad instructed. “We’re already 5 minutes after 2:30, and as soon as Aaron comes back with the chairs, we’ll begin.”
Katrina nodded. She warmed up with a few scales and tuned to the piano and set her music out on the stand.
“Can I give my fwowers to da people now,” Chad pleaded.
“Alright.” Katrina set her flute down on the table. “But make sure you only give one to each person; that way three people can have some and not just one.”
“What’s he doing, Katrina?” Mom momentarily stopped her piano playing to glance at Chad as he ran by her. Katrina took Seth from Tonya and then turned to Mom.
“Oh, he said he wanted to give some dandelions to the people here, so I let him pick three.” Katrina balanced Seth on her right side and rubbed a smudge from her flute with her left hand. “I hope you don’t mind that he stained his fingers.”
“Not at all!” Mom smiled as Chad placed a flower in one man’s still hand. “It just might do something for them.”
Aaron returned with the chairs, and so the service began. In the time of singing, playing, and taking a squealing Seth out into the hallway, Katrina forgot about those dandelions that Chad had given out until the end of the service.
Seth had finally fallen asleep, and Katrina sank gratefully to a chair, cuddling her brother on her chest. Mom and Dad went around the group, shaking hands with the people while Aaron and Tonya collected the books, trying to keep Chad from playing the piano.
Katrina’s eyes wandered over the chairs until a yellow flower came into her vision. “Did you give a flower to Ruth?” she asked Chad.
Chad jumped down from the piano bench. “Yes; she wooked weally sad, so I thought I would cheer her up.”
“What do you know about cheering up, little Buddy?” Katrina ruffled up his hair playfully.
“Well, Mommy says that we should be kind to old people wike Wuth.” He shuffled his feet on the floor, then smiled up at his sister. “And Mommy also says that if we’re nice to these old people, then we’re being nice to Jesus, too.”
Katrina couldn’t help a look of shock. She knew Mom had been reading character building stories to Tonya and Chad every afternoon, but she didn’t think that Chad had picked up much. Maybe he had . . .
“That’s a cute baby you have there.”
Katrina looked up to see Gladys, standing before her. “All my brothers are cute,” she answered teasingly.
Gladys laughed. She was one of the more active ladies at the nursing home, and she enjoyed talking to the Colin children especially.
“Yes, maybe they all are,” she replied. “My grandson looks just like Chad, too. Oh, did you hear about Ruth?”
“Uh, no. Did something happen to her?”
Gladys settled down in the chair next to Katrina. “Well, it’s not for the worse this time and just happened a few minutes ago. I was sitting next to her, when Ruth grabbed my hand. In her palm she held that dandelion that Chad gave her. It was wilted, but Ruth held it up to me and smiled.”
“Smiled?” choked Katrina. For the three years Katrina and her family had been doing services here, Ruth had never smiled for them, nor for any of the nurses. They said she didn’t want to live and just a few months ago, refused to eat.
“Yes, smiled. Funny isn’t it? It looked so strange coming from her. Anyway, she beckoned me to come closer and in my ear she whispered, “I want to live.” Can you believe that? Goodness knows why on earth that flower wanted to make her live again; I still can’t figure it out. “
“That is. . . strange . . . isn’t it?” Katrina glanced over at Ruth who still held a smile and was still looking at the dandelion.
“Sure is,” Gladys agreed. “Maybe it reminded her of something in her past life or — or, well I really don’t know what. Hmmm .. . Well, guess I’d better go.”
Gladys pushed herself up with her cane. “I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next month!”
Katrina managed a smiled. “Okay, we should be here.” Gladys shuffled off into the hallway, and Katrina followed with her eyes.
“Just with a flower?” She found Ruth again in her seat. “Just from what Chad did made her want to live again?” she breathed.
Chad came skipping by. “Heeeelo, Twina!” He laughed and stopped to touch Seth’s arm. “My widdle budder is cute, isn’t he?”
“Do you know what you just did?” Katrina asked suddenly.
Chad looked confused, then smiled. “I jist gave dandywions to fwee people, and they liked them.”
Katrina set Seth down on the floor and gently grabbed Chad’s shoulders. “You did do that, didn’t you?” she said softly, looking into his brown eyes. “Gladys said a flower made Ruth want to live again, and you were the one who gave that flower. Why did you do that?”
“Because I love them.”
Katrina smiled. “You love them, Chad . . . and so does the Lord.”
With the themes for this issue of YWSH being on Motherhood and Mothers, this story may not seem to fit. Actually, I had no intention of writing something for this issue, because it was a busy time of the year, and I needed to spend my time on other things.
This story, like all my other Katrina stories, is basically true. Obviously I can’t tell everything as it happened, but as close as I could, I did. At the beginning of May we went to a nursing home to do a service. My little brother Mark (2) picked some “dandywions” as he calls them, kind of to my hesitation. However, when he gave those flowers to the people there, I saw faces light up with happiness, and one lady wanted to live again.
One aspect of training children that I feel is very important, is to respect and help older people. We live in a world today where action and frantic schedules are common; by the time we are possibly married and have children, this won’t change. Families all have older people in their family, which mainly get placed in a nursing home if they cannot care for themselves. I feel it is important to learn now to help those in need so that when you have your own children, they will learn from experience and want to do the same. I have read several books on children training for school and all say the same thing: to respect and help the elderly is one of the best things you can teach your children.
To cheer up a lonely heart and perhaps just talk to a sad person in a nursing home can make a world of difference. I’d encourage you as young ladies to consider making nursing home visits a weekly or monthly family activity. Not always will the people want you to talk to them and sometimes it takes some effort on your part (something that isn’t easy for me). But to let a lonely heart know that someone out there still cares for them in a busy world can make such an impact on a person as well as yourself.
A Servant of Christ,
Jana - Richland Center, WI
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