Heart Songs

Clara watched through her living room window as her neighbor, little Anna, ran across her lawn
and onto her porch. She could see tears in the little girl’s eyes and her face contorted in emotional pain.
She hurried to open the door and let the child inside her home. Anna ran inside and wrapped her arms
around Clara’s waist and cried into her chef’s apron. Clara let her cry for a little while, then gently
removed Anna’s arms and led her to the couch where they both took a seat.

“Now, tell me what’s wrong,” Clara instructed Anna.

“Grandma is so mean! She’s always mad and screaming at me for no reason! I wish she’d go back to her
old house far away!” Anna wailed in distress.

“Darling, your Grandmother is in a new, unfamiliar place far away from her old home of many years. It
was a great change for her. Sometimes change can make us afraid and we hide our fear behind a mask
of anger,” Clara explained to Anna.

“She just sits all day and watches television. Yesterday, when she saw you go out to work at the learning
center, she said that at your age you shouldn’t be going out to work. I told her that you loved to teach
and loved to help others. All she did was tell me to shut up,” Anna expressed with great indignation.

“Well, maybe the problem is that she needs something to do to occupy her time,” Clara said
thoughtfully. “Come on, I just baked some cupcakes. Let’s go have one with a cup of hot chocolate.”

Later, after Anna had gone home, Clara decided to take some cupcakes over to Charlotte,
Anna’s mother, and get reacquainted with Mrs. Bradley, Charlotte’s mother. As she walked across to the
Prince house, she observed her other neighbor, Ralph Elmore, who had just recently retired from his job
of 40 years as a master carpenter. His wife, Joan, had told her that he wasn’t adjusting well to
retirement. She could understand his difficult adjustment; just a year ago that had been her. At her
door, Charlotte Prince eagerly invited her inside and reintroduced her to her mother, Mrs. Bradley.
Charlotte took the plate of cupcakes and went into the kitchen leaving the two ladies alone.

“You aren’t working today?” Dorothy Bradley commented to her.

“No, I’m not,” Clara replied.

“You’re always doing something or going somewhere! Women our age should sit down and get out of
the way of this crazy world!” Dorothy said sharply to her.

“That’s one way to look at it, but I figure that since I’m living in this world, I might as well find a place for
me in it and do things that make me happy,” Clara replied to Dorothy’s sharp comment.

“There’s no room anymore in this world for the thing that made me happy,” Dorothy said grudgingly.

“There’s always room in God’s world for us if we choose happiness. What is it that you did that made
you happy, that made your heart sing?” Clara inquired.

“I used to love to garden. I was a master gardener, but after my husband died I sold my house because it
was too big for me to take care of. I had an award winning garden. I sold the house to my nephew and
his uppity wife destroyed my garden to put in a swimming pool! The ground here is almost too hard to grow anything and there’s no room in the yard anyway,” Dorothy told her haughtily.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Clara said to her with a smile. There was an idea forming in her head.

Before she left, she pulled Charlotte aside and explained her idea to her.

“Good luck with that one. Mr. Elmore isn’t exactly friendly,” Charlotte commented with a laugh.

With another plate of cupcakes, Clara went over to see her neighbors, the Elmores. She knocked
and Joan Elmore let her inside. The Elmores had been her neighbors for more than thirty years.

“What brings you over here, Clara?” Joan inquired.

“First, bringing you two some cupcakes and second to speak to your husband,” Clara explained.

“That old grump is in the garage doing nothing!” Joan told her pointing to the kitchen door that led into the garage.

Clara walked into the garage and carpentry workshop that was Ralph Elmore’s domain.

“Humph, what you want? No good, I’ll bet,” Ralph commented to her.

“I hope it’ll be some good. I would like to buy that pile of lumber you have over there in the corner. Charlotte Prince and I are going to build gardening boxes for her mother,” Clara explained to him.

“Do either one of you know one end of a hammer from the other?!” Ralph asked indignantly.

“I hope so, but how hard can it be to build a box,” Clara replied.

“Harder than you think! You two go buy what you need to fill the boxes and I’ll build the boxes. That pile of lumber ain’t doing nothing but taking up space anyway,” Ralph Elmore told her.

Joan Elmore stared at her in utter surprise after she explained what she and Ralph were going to do. Ralph had been a sad, grumpy storm cloud since he had retired a year ago.

Three days later, Clara, Charlotte, Anna, and Joan watched as Ralph and Dorothy discussed the placement, width and depth of the gardening boxes to be built along the perimeter of the backyard fence and the lattice planters for the patio wall. Ralph Elmore, a master carpenter, was in his glory building things. Dorothy Bradley was a master gardener and was giddy with joy at the prospect of being
able to plant and grow vegetables, herbs and flowers. The joy on their faces made the onlookers smile.

“How did you do this?! Look at the happiness on Ralph’s face!” Joan inquired and commented.

“Each of us has a life’s work that brings us unlimited joy and happiness. I rediscovered my life’s work through little Anna here. Teaching young people made my heart sing. Ralph has to build things. Where
the rest of us see a pile of wood, he sees a table or a chair or a cabinet. Building beautiful, functional
things is his life’s work and is as essential to him as breathing. Dorothy is a nurturer. She loves the feel of the soil in her hands. She plants seeds in the soil, cares for them and watches for the very essence of life to bloom. That’s her life’ work that feeds her soul and makes her heart sing. Sometimes, the work that
we do is our life’s work that brings us joy and sometimes our life’s work lies elsewhere beyond a job where we make a living. We each have to find our life’s work, that thing that makes our hearts sing and
give us unlimited joy,” Clara replied to the question.

Anna smiled happily. Her grandmother no longer screamed at her or said things that hurt her
feelings and made her cry. Grandma Dorothy had promised to teach her about growing things. Aunt Clara had said that it would be a good thing for her to know. Life was back to being good again.