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A devastating storm yields powerful stories. Meet the Puerto Rico-based Classroom of the Month.

Coming full circle. Starting with roots.

BY Wench on May 15, 2017
3 | 7 Favorites
Fifty-some odd years ago, Helen's husband left her for his third mistress. She raised two boys alone, struggling to make ends meet, doing everything she could to give her children a happy life. She worked herself to the bone, but she never gave up. She held onto her faith and along the way, she planted seeds of that faith in others.

She also planted thousands of real seeds, around a gazebo she paid to have donated to her church. She drove an hour every week to attend services, and she alone maintained the little house and the garden surrounding it. Over the years, children played under its shade, more than a few decked in clothes she bought every Christmas and Easter. She loved children and although she didn't have much, she spent most of her spare change on gifts, never once asking for a thing in return.

Twenty-some years ago, a little girl knelt in the dirt next to her mother. She watched and learned how to pull the weeds from the base, to get the whole root out. She scraped many a knuckle against her cement steps and buried soil beneath her fingernails, clearing out the vegetable patches. At times, the task was frustrating, but the girl's mother was a hard worker and she taught the girl to stick with the task to its completion.

Helen fainted on her way to the car. She woke up in the hospital with breathing tubes and two broken ribs. An hour away at church, her friend delivered two gift bags to two little boys on her behalf. The boys' mother was divorced, and raising them on her own. She worked herself to the bone, but she never gave up on giving her children a happy life. The sting of coming alone to the church where she'd been married hung over her every week. Still, she brought her children and tried to teach them about the faith that she held onto. The simple kindness of others spoke volumes to her hurting heart and Helen was always kind, without question.

After church, the mother drove an hour with her little boys to visit Helen in the hospital. Her face lit up as they walked into the room. "Every year, I put flowers around the gazebo for Pascha, but this year I just couldn't do it." And nobody else had tended to the garden. Without Helen, it was left untouched.

Two weeks later, the sun was shining and the air was warm and breezy on a Sunday afternoon as the mother left church with her two little boys. They passed by the gazebo on their way through the parking lot. "Boys, remember Miss Helen, who we visited in the hospital? She paid for this gazebo, isn't it beautiful?" Then she noticed the weeds growing up along the pathway. And she saw cobwebs creeping in around the icon of Jesus and the children. And she remembered what Helen had said.

The mother took her children home and changed them out of their dress shoes and shirts. She put them in shorts and sneakers and loaded a bucket up with wood cleaners and brushes, trash bags and a broom. Her oldest went in search of gardening gloves. They drove back to the church.

"Like this," she said. Her son knelt down next to his mother on the pavement and watched, learning how to pull from the base and get the whole root out.

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