A heartless landlord gives a woman who falls short on her rent notice. But when he goes to his sister’s house for a family dinner, he is shocked to find her there.
Life is hard, and it becomes even harder if the hearts that surround us are made of stone. Diane Salinger knew about life. At sixty-two, she’d seen a lot more dark days than sunny and cried a lot of tears.
But Diane wasn’t the kind of woman to give up. Every time life knocked her down she bounced back up again, ready to fight again. She had lost her husband three years before, then a tornado razed her home. But she just picked up the stakes and started over again.
She took her savings and bought herself a small grocery store in a pretty mid-sized town in Michigan. It was perfect for her. A big enough town that would appreciate a few of the exotic items she intended to carry, small enough to be cozy and warm.
Cozy and warm might describe the community in general but not Diane’s landlord, Chris Turkle. It was from Chris that Diane rented her small apartment within walking distance of the store.
When the going gets tough it’s important to be there for each other.
As far as it went, Diane was the perfect tenant. She was quiet, didn’t damage the property, and always paid her rent on time. And then one month, she was short.
Chris fanned out the money he’d taken from the envelope in front of Diane and waved it in her face. “$120 short, Mrs.Salinger.”
Diane blushed. “As I was explaining, Mr. Turkle, since so many of the small businesses have been struggling during Covid… Well, I extended credit to some needy families…And this month I’m a little short. But you know I’m good for it! I will pay you the $120 in two weeks…”
“If you’re willing to go under playing Mother Teresa, that’s YOUR problem,” Chris snapped. “I, Mrs.Salinger, am a businessman, not a charity! I want you out by the end of the week!”
“But Mr. Turkle…” Diane protested. “It’s only for a week, and it won’t happen again!”
“It happened once, and it’s enough for me, Mrs.Salinger. You’re OUT.” Chris said coldly and he turned his back and walked out. He felt quite justified. He’d seen Diane’s grocery store and it did brisk business.
There were always people trooping in and out with heavy shopping bags full of delicious-looking produce, and her deli section, he’d heard, was extremely popular. “Short on cash indeed!” he snorted to himself. “Taking advantage is what it is!”
Chris went home and got himself ready to go to dinner at his baby sister’s house. Vanessa was his favorite sister and he often worried about her. She had married and divorced a man who seemed to be constantly unemployed and Vanessa worked two jobs to make ends meet.
He’d offered to give her 16-year-old son a weekend job, but Vanessa always refused, blushing. “It’s okay, Chris,” she’d say. “I’ll make do!” But Chris had seen the dark shadows under her eyes and how thin her face was getting.
It was his nephew’s birthday, so Chris tucked a $20 note into an envelope and put it in his jacket pocket. Then he headed for the door and walked the three blocks to Vanessa’s house.
He knocked on the door and Vanessa welcomed him with a happy smile. She looked more relaxed and a lot happier. Whatever she was cooking for dinner smelled delicious and his mouth watered.
“Hey there!” he said, kissing her on the cheek. “Where’s the birthday boy?”
“Playing video games with Diane!” Vanessa smiled. “Come on in!” Vanessa walked to the stairs and shouted: “Joss, Diane, come on down! It’s dinner time!”
To Chris’ chagrin, in walked Mrs.Salinger, the tenant he’d just booted out of his property and she seemed to be on great terms with his nephew and his sister! Diane was just as stunned to see Chris, but she was admirably cool.
“Hello,” she smiled. “Nice to see you. I didn’t know you were Vanessa’s brother…”
Chris blushed and cleared his throat. “Ehr…Yes, my younger sister…you know…”
“Come on everyone,” cried Vanessa. “The roast will get cold!”
“Roast!” cried Joss. “That’s my favorite…But mom, I know you only get paid next week! How can we afford this?”
Diane smiled at Joss and patted his hand. “Don’t you worry about that,” she said. “Your mom’s credit is good with me. That smells AMAZING and I’m starving!”
Chris leaned in and asked in a low voice: “Is Vanessa the person you’re helping?”
Diane smiled. “She’s one of them,” she replied. “Maybe she didn’t tell you but one of her jobs fell through, so I’m just helping out until she’s back on her feet.”
Chris felt a wave of shame color his cheeks. “I’m so sorry about…you know… But why doesn’t Vanessa come to me?”
Dinner was a wonderful roast from Diane’s store. | Source: Unsplash
Diane said gently, “You know, we all have our pride. Vanessa wants to stand on her own two feet and raise her boy. Help from a friend is one thing — being a poor relation asking for charity is another.”
By the end of the evening, Chris had discovered that Diane was a very lovely and funny woman and that he enjoyed her company immensely. That night, his perception of his community shifted. He was going to follow Diane’s example. He was going to give a helping hand.
What can we learn from this story?
When the going gets tough, it’s important to be there for each other. Diane was quietly helping the poorer people in town by selling them food on credit she knew they could never repay.
Being able to admit you’re wrong and change your ways is an extraordinary thing. Chris not only realized he was wrong about Diane, but he also started to help those who were struggling.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.