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She was probably in her seventies. Salt-and-pepper hair.

Her cart was stalled, and she was looking at vases in an aisle in the Dollar Tree. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to herself or to me.

Her words: “I don’t know which one to buy.” I stopped pushing my cart.

She had my full attention.

The woman looked directly at me. “I don’t know which one to buy. I want to force tulips or hyacinths in a nice, glass vase for my daughter-in-law. Which one? What do you think?”

She held up two sizes.

I repeated her words so she’d know I heard her. “So you are forcing flowers for a daughter-in-law. I love forced flowers. I’d choose the bigger vase. But how will you hold the bulbs in place?”

“I’m buying these smooth, little stones for that. This store has a variety of stones to choose from.” She continued, “My daughter-in-law is having Hospice at home. Very sick with cancer.”

I put my hand over my heart and shook my head.

“She probably won’t make it more than a year,” she said. “I sold my house and moved in with my son and daughter-in-law to help take care of her. I’ve been a widow for 10 years. Just left it all behind. It’s not important anyway. My son and daughter-in-law are all I have. What’s important is being here with them, helping them. My son’s a nurse. She was a nurse, too. I just want her to watch something that’s full of beauty and hope and life.”

It was a beautiful gesture, a beautiful thought.

I asked her name. She said, “Janice.”

I said, “Janice, you are a picture of goodness.”

Not one thought of herself. She was all about loving a daughter-in-law. I told her I’d pray for her, her son, her daughter-in-law.

I thought of God being full of goodness and a giver of goodness.

I went into the store for white punch-out letters for a bulletin board, not for a story, not for a picture of goodness, not to add another person to a long prayer list.

God had other plans. He put an image of love, an image of goodness right in front of me, so I could not miss it.

What is goodness?

Apostle Peter described Jesus as going about doing good. (Acts 10:38, NASV)

Beautiful portrait.

Jesus touched lepers, anointed the eyes of the blind man with mud, touched the little children, went to the bedside of the sick. He didn’t send someone else. He went Himself. Love in action.

Likewise, Janice is hands-on.

A lesson for me. Goodness is not an arms-length kind of living. It is hands-on, up-close-and-personal. Hands-on work without asking the cost.

Maybe goodness is best understood when we see it as an action in another person. A person like Janice.

I spent less than five minutes with Janice that day. But long enough to get a clear picture of goodness.

The fruits of the Spirit. There are nine of them, all listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Acquiring goodness or any fruit means you work with the Holy Spirit.

It may be an up-and-down struggle, but it’s all good.

I left the Dollar Tree with no white, punch-out letters. Instead, I met Janice, a woman with the fruit of goodness.

You may wonder if anything is left that is good.

There is.


Pat Durmon

P.S. Thank you for Comments and Shares. Gratitude.

A photo of God’s goodness, taken from Petit Jean Mountain, near Morrilton, Arkansas, by Pat Durmon, 2012.

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