Copyright © 2017 Janice Alonso
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“May I have a flower, Mrs. Finch?” asked Camille. Her sad eyes looked into her neighbor’s faded blue ones. “I need cheering up.”
Mrs. Finch nodded and placed a hand on Camille’s shoulder. “Are you missing Jamaica again?” Camille’s family had moved to Florida two months ago, and she didn’t know anyone in her new home … in her new country. She and Mrs. Finch had become fast friends.
Camille’s chin trembled. She extended a finger toward a cluster of yellow flowers. “Could I have one of those?”
Mrs. Finch plucked one of the flowers. “These are Black-eyed Susans.” Leaning in closer, she whispered, “I have a gift I was saving for your birthday next month, but I’ll give it to you today.” She smiled, straightened, and then dusted the front of her dress. “Go home and put your flower in water. Change into some old clothes, and I’ll meet you in your backyard in about ten minutes.”
Mrs. Finch watched as the little girl raced home. She thought back to when she and her husband first moved to Florida. Right after the move, her husband had gotten very sick and then died. She’d felt so lonely. Sometimes she felt as if her heart were going to break, and it would have broken if it hadn’t been for her neighbors.
She smiled and her heart brightened just thinking about them. She remembered Mrs. Rodriquez dropping by with bouquets of fresh flowers. Jason, who was on his high school wrestling team, had helped her bring in groceries and had done other jobs she couldn’t do herself. And she would always remember the delicious vegetables Mark Murphy brought her from his garden. She may have felt lonely, but only for a short while. She looked at the houses lining her street and sent up a prayer of thanks to God for her good neighbors.
Before the ten minutes were up, Camille was waiting in her backyard. She stretched up on her tippy-toes and peered over the fence, eager to see what surprise Mrs. Finch had in store for her. Soon her neighbor came into view. Mrs. Finch had also changed clothes. She was wearing baggy blue jeans with grass stains on the knees and a pair of old tennis shoes. Around her waist, Mrs. Finch had tied the strings of a gardener’s apron. Miniature digging tools filled the floppy pockets. In her arms, she cradled a pot with a little plant in it.
“Isn’t that your bedroom up there?” asked Mrs. Finch. She pointed to window at the far end of the second story of Camille’s house.
Camille nodded. “Yes. I can see the whole backyard from there.”
“Good,” said Mrs. Finch. She headed toward an empty space next to the fence encircling Camille’s backyard. It was a bright and sunny spot. “This is the perfect place.”
Camille tilted her head to one side. She didn’t understand.
Mrs. Finch held up the pot. “It’s a seedling,” she said. “Another name for a baby plant. It may not look like much now,” she explained, “but bougainvillea love lots of sunshine.”
A smile spread from ear-to-ear. “A bougainvillea!” Camille exclaimed. “They grow everywhere in Jamaica.” Why she had them in the garden in her yard there. Her heart sank at the thought of her used-to-be home.
“I know,” said Mrs. Finch as she squatted down. She patted the place beside her. “I need your help.” She reached into a pocket and handed Camille a tool that looked like a small shovel. “This is a spade. Dig a hole for the seedling.” She placed the tips of her fingers together, shaping a circle. “Make the hole about this big.”
Camille stabbed the soil with the spade while Mrs. Finch removed the bougainvillea from the pot. “I didn’t buy this plant at a nursery.” She lifted her head. “Do you remember when I visited my sister a few months ago?”
Camille nodded. “She lives in Orlando.” She continued with her digging, beads of sweat dotting her upper lip.
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Finch. “My sister had three pots filled with purple and white bougainvillea.” She shook the loose dirt away from the bottom of the plant. “I decided that I’d cut a small piece from the prettiest one and try to make it grow … just for you.”
Camille wiped her face. A smear of dirt spread across her cheek as a small smile tugged her lips upward.
Mrs. Finch laughed and pulled a red and white checked towel from her pocket. She wiped the smudge from Camille’s face. Then she held up the plant and brushed the tiny hair-like extensions. “See, the plant has sprouted little roots.”
“Is this big enough?” asked Camille as she leaned back and pointed to the hole.
Mrs. Finch nodded. “Run get your mama’s watering can and fill it with water.”
Quick as a flash of lightning, Camille was back with the watering can. Mrs. Finch steadied the can as Camille tipped it forward, letting the stream of water fill the hole. Mrs. Finch removed a packet of fertilizer from another pocket and mixed it with the water and dirt.
“We’re ready to plant the bougainvillea,” said Mrs. Finch.
Camille held the stick end of the plant in the hole while Mrs. Finch scraped the muddy mixture around it. Then she patted the area around the seedling until it could stand by itself.
Mrs. Finch and Camille stood and looked at their new creation.
“When you look out your window, you can remember the beautiful bougainvillea that grow in Jamaica.”
“I’ll think of you, too. And what a great friend you are.” Camille hugged Mrs. Finch. “I can’t think of a way to tell you how happy you’ve made me.”
“I can,” said Mrs. Finch. “Take good care of this gift and help it grow strong. When it’s big enough, you can give someone else a cutting of your bougainvillea.”
Camille thought for a minute. “But I want to do something for you … something to make you happy.”
“God has already done that.” Mrs. Finch cupped Camille’s chin in her hands and lifted her face up. “He planted you next to me!”
Camille has moved from Jamaica to Florida. She misses her old home and her new country seems strange. Because of the kindness of her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Finch, Camille learns how important it is to be thoughtful of others. The eighth book in the series Love God. Love Others. Book eight focuses on Luke 10:27 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Geared for grades K-2 and to be read to the child. Great teaching aid.