A Roll of Quarters

  When I think of an act of kindness by someone at Christmas, the one person who stands out is Dr. John Coley, a professor of English at UAB for many years. Long departed from this life, his sweet spirit lives on in my heart and mind. This is his story. 

  It was one of those crazy days of the Christmas season at Plant Odyssey: customers in line at the cash register; phones ringing off the wall; delivery trucks pulling up trying to unload;  customers wanting all their poinsettias wrapped and bowed; way too much noise and confusion. 

  After a not-so-happy customer snatched her order from me without so much as a “thank you,” a well-dressed older gentleman placed three poinsettias in front of me and said, “Would you be so kind as to wrap these for me?” I could have kissed him on the spot because his gentle and polite demeanor removed the sting of the last customer. “Of course, I would be delighted to,” I said with a smile on my face.

  When his poinsettias were ready, I offered to help him to his car but Dr. Coley patted my hand and declined, saying he would manage by making a couple of trips as we were so busy. (Dr. Coley had a crippled right hand, making his gesture more special.)

  So, one by one he carried the plants to his car and I began to wrap the next order. On his last trip he placed a roll of quarters in my hand and said, “Please buy your staff a soda on me and tell them I appreciate their hard work.” Tears came to my eyes. I was touched beyond words by his gesture of thoughtfulness.

  And so began the tradition. Dr. Coley would come by every Christmas, I would wrap his poinsettias, and he would give me a roll of quarters. As the years passed and he became more fragile, he reluctantly accepted my offer to help take the plants to his car. We would hug, he would give me a roll of quarters and say, “See you next year.”

  The last Christmas I carried out the poinsettias to his car and placed them in his back seat, he turned to me and said “I think this might be my last Christmas Libby. Thank you for always taking such good care of me.” 

  Tears that I could not stop began to pour out of my eyes. I placed my hands on his shoulders, kissed both his cheeks, and told him how special he was to me. How I would always treasure the kindness he expressed to my staff and me. 

  And Dr. Coley was right; he died a short time later. Whenever I am stressed during the holiday season, I imagine him standing in front of me waiting patiently for his poinsettias to be wrapped.

  I smile for the wonderful memory of a gentle man and with deep gratitude that he was and always will be a part of my Christmas celebration. 

  I posted this years ago and decided we all needed a reminder of the goodness that resides in all of us. May this holiday season be full of love and laughter, kindness and decency towards each other, tolerance, and acceptance of all. 

From my garden with love ❤️ 


About LibbyRich

I owned Plant Odyssey in Lakeview before I retired. Now I write. I have been sharing my expertise for over 39 years. I hope you enjoy the posts, and get "In the Garden" with Libby.
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