A PLACE OF HOPE

As usual, the well-stocked food pantry was bustling with activity in the late summer afternoon. Individuals and entire families had arrived early to take advantage of the free groceries that so many depended on to help them make it to the next paycheck.

Young mothers, with their children in tow, pushed small shopping carts down the aisles as they picked out the necessary items needed to feed everyone and keep their households functioning despite the constant pressures in their lives. 

Seniors, many of them frail and unsteady, moved carefully as they chose what they needed. 

Also, in the crowd were several individuals who were most likely homeless. Their physical appearance and demeanor gave evidence of their current struggles.

Overall, the atmosphere was solemn because most of the shoppers, although grateful for the kindness and compassion they found here, would give almost anything if they didn’t have to walk through the door.

Each person had their own reason for needing the food and assorted household items. Some were unemployed, while others were working two or more jobs but couldn’t make ends meet. Several had been sick or had loved ones with serious health issues. In almost every case, they had been driven to this point in their lives by events that overwhelmed them.

These were people who had been marginalized and forced to live on the edges of society. They were men and women who, through no fault of their own, had been pushed aside and forgotten. Many were individuals who were perceived as being so different, they were not accepted by the majority.

All of them found the pantry to be a haven because they received assistance with the basics needed to continue their daily struggle – but, more importantly, they received that assistance while being treated with dignity and respect.

Most were unaware of the watchful eyes of the director of the facility. Thirty-nine-year-old Abigail Grisham kept a close lookout to see that everyone’s needs were being met and that there were no issues to be addressed. She’d been in charge for the last three years and in her time as director, the food pantry had been transformed into a vital part of the community. The fact that she happened to be black had been a concern for some in this conservative part of the state, but most had come to accept her because of her total dedication to feeding people and the heartwarming compassion she had for those who were vulnerable.

Abbey did everything in her power to assure people when they came through the door, that they were safe and among friends who would care for them without passing judgment. Taking care of people in distress was the most important thing in her life, and Abbey’s unconditional commitment to them showed in countless ways. For her, this was far more than just a way to feed people. She believed it was a way to nourish their spirit, a way to provide support and comfort at a time in their lives when they felt completely lost.

As the Director surveyed the room, her attention was suddenly diverted when she caught a glimpse of a subcompact car that she thought she recognized pulling into the parking lot. If she was right, it was being driven by one of her least favorite people in the community. Hoping fervently that she was mistaken, she only had to wait a few seconds until her dread turned into resignation. When he stepped out of his vehicle, she could clearly see it was him.

Marlin Lucas was a slim man in his mid-sixties with a shock of silver hair. He was a fixture in this area of town, known by all to be a truly unpleasant person for many different reasons. However, it was beyond dispute that his single worst characteristic was his seething racism.

During his six decades of life as a white male, he had grown increasingly bitter and intolerant towards anyone who did not look like him. His belligerence was always on display because he had a complete inability to keep his opinions to himself. At every opportunity, he spoke his mind and aired his grievances, whether anyone wanted to hear them or not – and Abbey was definitely among those who had no desire to endure Marlin’s prejudicial tirades.

But, strangely enough, his horrific bigotry was in stark contrast to the sweetness of his wife of forty-three years. Abbey felt sorry for the considerate, thoughtful woman who was forced to put up with a partner who was so quick to discriminate. Everyone respected Gina. She was kind and generous, completely different from her husband.

However, her goodness and decency could not make up for her husband’s deplorable behavior. Marlin had never approved of the food pantry because he was convinced that the charity attracted undesirables, which was his way of saying that it served too many people of color. But, thankfully, most citizens were open-minded, and they were able to appreciate the need it filled. Consequently, they chose to ignore Marlin’s relentless complaining. 

To add insult to injury, he was particularly disturbed that it was being run by a black woman. He had heard rumors that she sometimes bought people clothes with her own money, particularly families with small children, and frequently gave individuals rides to job interviews in her old van.

That kind of behavior was beyond his comprehension.

Marlin had been in several times since Abbey became director, and, for her part, each visit was an unpleasant encounter. But today, the way he strode in the door made it clear that he was extremely agitated.

It only took a second for Marlin to spot Abbey, and when he did, he quickened his pace. She took a deep breath and got ready for what she was sure was going to be another confrontation.

In a voice filled with anger, Marlin said, “I want to talk to you!”

Abbey said, “Okay, but not out here. Let’s go to my office.”

“Fine!”

He followed her into the tiny, cluttered room that served multiple purposes including housing her small desk and computer.

As soon as she closed the glass door, Marlin bellowed, “This place is a blight on the community! Poor people, most of them minorities showing up in their junk cars, dragging all their kids in here. How many of them do you actually think are in this country legally?”

“They are human beings who are hungry. That is all that matters to me.”

“Well, I sure as hell don’t see any real Americans in this Godforsaken dump. These immigrants are pathetic!”

It was difficult for Abbey to control her emotions, but she suspected this was just the opening salvo – and, unfortunately, she was right. Marlin was just getting warmed up. “These people just want a handout. Nobody ever gave me anything, and there is no way I would ever accept charity. I earn my keep, and they should too.”

Abbey started to respond, but he cut her off.

“Every time you open the doors, it’s nothing but a parade of losers coming through here. It makes me sick to see the worthless crowd this place draws.”

Abbey shook her head, but he still didn’t give her an opening.

Marlin then made his contempt personal. “It’s people like you that are ruining this country. All you bleeding heart liberals are letting the deadbeats off the hook. It makes me furious to see how these people take advantage of those of us who work hard and pay our taxes.”

As he paused to take a breath, Abbey quickly tried to reason with him. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Mr. Lucas, but I certainly don’t agree with you. Most of these folks are struggling and they just need some assistance as they go through a difficult period.”

“That is a lie! Once a deadbeat always a deadbeat. When they find out that people will just give them what they want, it’s over. They don’t have to try anymore. They can just sit on their asses at home and keep having babies that they expect everyone else to take care of.”

Sadly, Abbey had heard that type of ignorance too often her life. “You don’t really believe that, do you?”

Marlin was indignant. “What’s that supposed to mean?…… Listen, Honey, I live in the real world. You live in some kind of progressive fantasyland where everything is free for everyone. You’re not an American – you’re a damn socialist.”

Abbey could hardly believe what she was hearing. “I’m running a food pantry to help people out during tough times, and you think that makes me a socialist?”

“You’re not doing these people any favors by letting them avoid taking responsibility for their lives.”

The argument paused as Marlin watched with disgust as a woman who happened to be Hispanic walked past the glass door with her two small children.

Once the young mother was out of earshot, Marlin let loose. “People like her don’t belong in this country! She’s just here to get something for nothing.”

Abbey could no longer contain herself. Whispering just loud enough for Marlin to hear, she said, “I have to protect people’s privacy, so I can’t reveal who it is, but, right now, there is a woman in this building getting food because she’s battling breast cancer. Her employer decided she was missing too much work taking her chemotherapy treatments, so he fired her.”

Marlin showed no reaction.

Again, speaking in a discreet tone of voice, Abbey said, “Also, there is a man in here who is a veteran. When he came back from his third deployment, he was diagnosed with PTSD. There are periods of time when he can hold down a job and then there are stretches when he struggles to function in his daily life.”

The visitor in her office remained unmoved.

“And there is a woman here whose baby died shortly after birth. Her husband couldn’t handle his grief, and he descended into alcoholism. Eventually, he began to beat her, and finally, after several years of physical abuse, she found the courage to leave him.”

Marlin stared at her. “My God, you have an excuse for everybody.”

“They’re not excuses! They’re issues that are affecting people’s lives. How would it feel if you needed to get food from here?”

Marlin sneered. “I would never set foot in a place like this because I’m willing to work and pay taxes. I am a good citizen.”

“But things can happen that are out of your control. No one is immune from problems in life, and sometimes those problems can be overwhelming.”

Marlin shrugged. “This is nothing more than a modern-day version of begging.”

Abbey tried to make an important point. “You have no idea how much courage it takes to walk in here.”

“Courage?!! You can’t be serious.”

“I’m dead serious. Some people are embarrassed. Others are so proud that it’s devastating to have to ask for help. Many people feel like it’s demeaning. And far too often, individuals believe they’ve hit rock bottom when they come here.”

“How could you possibly know what it’s like?”

Abbey took a deep breath. “Because I was once in their place.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Twelve years ago, I was the one who walked through that door feeling desperate. I’d reached a point in my life where I wasn’t sure if I could on.” She paused for a moment expecting Marlin to interrupt her, but he just stood there staring at her.

“When I say that life can be difficult, I’m talking from experience.”

Martin did not want to hear about her petty problems.

Struggling to keep her emotions in check, Abbey said, “I am the woman who lost her child……I came here for the first time because I had nothing left. I’d gotten married, and a year later, I gave birth to a beautiful daughter, but a few days after she was born, they discovered a heart defect. She struggled as long as she could, but eventually, our angel had to have surgery. She was five months old when she died on the operating table.

“Until you’ve lost someone who is your whole world, you cannot possibly understand the pain you deal with. My husband could not accept our daughter’s death, and he began to drink to block out his grief. He was a good man, but alcohol changed him into a cruel and vicious person. I lived through beating after beating until I was finally able to get away from him. But I struggled on my own, and, eventually, with nowhere else to turn, I ended up here.”

Marlin was not impressed by her story. Coldly, he said, “So, you made a bad decision in life. You chose the wrong guy, had a sick kid and then expected to get free food because of your lack of judgment. No wonder you baby these people with handouts.”

To have her daughter’s death so cruelly dismissed, hurt. Abbey’s first impulse was to lash out at him, but she held back. Carefully choosing her words, she said, “Yes, I do feel sympathy for the people who come here for assistance – but I feel even more sympathy for you. It must be terrible to go through life filled with such hatred and ugliness. Many of the folks here are trapped in pitiful situations – but you are a pitiful person.”

Marlin’s face flushed bright crimson. “I don’t care about your hard luck story! The only reason I set foot in here is because I wanted you to know that I’m going to petition the city council to shut down this infested hellhole forever!”

Abbey’s eyes narrowed, and she leaned forward. Firmly, she said, “I’ve sat here while you spewed all of your hateful, racist language, and now it’s your turn to listen. I don’t like being threatened because what you want to do will hurt hundreds of people and entire families. That includes small children who are just innocent victims in this situation.”

Marlin started to interrupt, but she continued.

“But, thankfully, the majority of people in this community aren’t like you. Most of them are decent and reasonable. That’s why I don’t believe the city council will touch this place. They know how much good we do here, and they have always supported our efforts.”

With his voice rising, Marlin said, “You are wrong! I cannot wait to close you down forever!”

Abbey could see that it was pointless to continue the conversation. “All right, you’ve had your say – I think it’s time for you to leave. I have more important things to do than to listen to any more of this.”

Marlin was furious. “I’ll be happy to go!! I don’t want to spend another minute in here!”

As he turned and headed for the door, Abbey said, “And don’t come back until your attitude has changed.”

As she watched him walk out to his car, she thought about his long-suffering wife. Most people wondered how someone as compassionate as Gina had ended up married to such an intolerant man – but Abbey knew all too well how easy it was to marry someone who had serious issues.

A few weeks later, just as Abbey predicted, the city council refused to take action against the nonprofit, and Marlin Lucas quickly faded from her consciousness as she spent her days happily serving those who meant so much to her.

 

***

 

Over the next two years, the local charity continued to assist anyone in need – with no questions asked. Each case was special to Abbey, and because she was making a real difference, she felt more fulfilled than at any point in her life.

She understood the feeling a person gets when they know they are in the right place doing the work they were meant to do. And for Abigail Grisham, the food pantry was the one place in the world where she knew she belonged.

Unfortunately, they were entering a difficult time of year as the seasons changed, and freezing weather began to set in. During the current cold snap, she knew many families were struggling to keep the heat turned on, and she worried constantly about those who were homeless.

So, it alarmed her the first time she noticed a frail elderly man using a walker passing by. But when he appeared several days in a row, her concern grew. It certainly appeared that he could use some help, but each day he would briefly look over at the facility and then hobble away.

But then late one afternoon, on a cold raw day, Abbey looked up from her desk and saw the same elderly man slowly approaching the front door. He appeared to be extremely feeble and his appearance was disheveled. Without knowing his story, just the sight of him touched her heart, but as he got closer, she thought her eyes were playing tricks on her. By the time he reached the door, there was no doubt. Abbey’s sympathy immediately changed to shock.

The elderly man with the walker was Marlin Lucas.

His appearance had changed so drastically it was stunning. Always slender, Marlin was now emaciated having lost a frightening amount of weight. He was stooped shouldered and his walk was nothing more than a painful shuffle with each step requiring a maximum amount of effort.

Abbey stood up and quickly went to him. When he looked up at her, she could see the despair in his eyes. It was a look she had seen before, unfortunately, in the worst of cases.

Abbey had no way of knowing that in the twenty-four months since she’d last seen him, Marlin’s world had collapsed. Because of a single catastrophic moment, he’d slipped hopelessly into debt and had lost everything. But, as she was about to find out, his material losses were the least of his heartaches. 

It is fair to say that when Marlin arrived at the food pantry, he was a broken man – physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

Abbey held the door open as he carefully made his way inside. Even in the blustery chill, he was not wearing a jacket, and his clothes were ragged and filthy. He’d obviously been wearing them for days.

In a weak voice, he said, “Thank you, Abbey.”

Still shocked, she could hardly believe this was the same man who had confronted her two years earlier. “Mr. Lucas, I don’t know what to say. How can I help you?”

Marlin avoided her eyes. “I need the same thing that everyone needs when they come here.”

“We can certainly help you with that, but would you please come to my office so we can talk?”

With an uneasiness in his voice, he said, “I didn’t think you ever wanted to talk to me again.”

Abbey gently said, “Mr. Lucas, I said you weren’t welcome here until you changed your attitude. I think that change is obvious. Please come in so we can talk.”

Marlin nodded and slowly followed her in.

They both took a seat and an awkward silence settled over the room. After a short time, Marlin said, “I’m sorry I showed up here. I just didn’t know where else to turn.”

Abbey tried not to stare, but this man did resemble the individual who yelled at her in this same room. “Mr. Lucas, I realize it’s none of my business, but if you would like to talk about why you needed to come here, I am willing to listen.”

Marlin had intended to come in, get some food, and leave as quickly as possible, but he knew that Abbey was the most compassionate person he’d ever met and that if anyone would care about him it would be her.

Marlin painfully shifted in his seat, keeping one hand on his walker. “I don’t expect you to be nice to me. Not after the way I treated you.”

Abbey believed it was a foolish waste of time and effort to hold a grudge. “That is all in the past. Let’s start fresh.”

The weariness he was now experiencing clung to him like a heavy garment. For a moment he debated whether or not he should open up to her, but he realized he might as well. By showing up at her door, he had already conceded that this place was not what he had once believed it to be. 

With painfully acquired humility, he began. “You were right about how your life can change in an instant. My wife and I were running a simple errand. Something we’d done a thousand times. We were less than a mile from our house when a large truck ran a red light and slammed into our passenger door. The police said he never hit his brakes, and yet the driver escaped with just scratches and bruises.”  

He paused for a moment and then lowered his voice as if it would make it less real if he didn’t say the words too loud. “Gina was killed instantly, but somehow, I barely survived. It took them more than an hour to cut us out of the car, and although I was in agony the whole time, I kept trying to get Gina to answer me. But it was no use. I knew she was gone.”

As his eyes blurred with tears, Abbey grabbed tissues for both of them.

Marlin’s voice broke as he struggled to go on. “I was in ICU for ten days. I didn’t even get to go to my wife’s funeral.”

The elderly man’s sorrow took Abbey back to the heartbreaking grief she experienced with her baby. She wished she had known about the tragedy when it happened so she could’ve reached out to him. “For some reason, I never heard about the accident……But I’m sure you know how much Gina was loved by everyone. She was a wonderful person.”

“Yes, she was. My wife was incredible. She certainly deserved someone better than me. I don’t know why I was blessed to spend so many years with her.”

“Mr. Lucas, I am so sorry for your loss. I’m sure it made the severity of your injuries that much more difficult to overcome. Your recovery must have been grueling.”

“Seven surgeries and twelve months of rehab – and it’s still difficult to walk……But the physical pain is nothing compared to the loneliness. Gina and I did everything together. Because we had no children, we were all we had. I open my eyes each morning, and the reality hits me all over again that she’s really gone.”

Abbey could only imagine what it was like to share your entire life with one person only to have them snatched away in a split second.

“The accident was less than a month after I was here and treated you so badly.” He paused and looked down at the floor. “I’m ashamed of how I spoke to you and of all the things I said about the people who come here for help. I never realized how easy it is for your life to fall apart. I just didn’t think it could happen to me.”

“Tragically, it can happen to anyone – at any time – for any reason. That’s why it’s important to offer help without passing judgment. Every person’s story is different, but their need is the same. We don’t just give them food; we also give them dignity and respect. Sometimes they need that even more.”

“But how can you respect me after the way I treated you?”

“I respect the fact that you had the courage to come in. It could not have been easy for you.”

Marlin nodded. “I finally understand what you were trying to tell me. Coming here took all the courage I could muster……especially after the things I said to you.”

For the first time, Marlin looked her in the eyes. “Abbey, you were right about everything. I just didn’t think a person like me had to worry. I thought I had control of my life.”

“Mr. Lucas, none of us have control. Control is an illusion because, the truth is, our lives can change with every heartbeat.”

“I found that out in the worst way possible. Everything about my life was torn to pieces – but I’m still so ashamed to be here.”

“There is no shame in needing help.”

Marlin shook his head. “You know, when I was doing okay, I had friends. Or at least I thought I had friends. But when I began to struggle, they disappeared. I quickly realized I had no one.”

“Well, please remember that you have friends here.”

With his voice shaking, he said, “When you lose the person you’ve loved all your life, you’re no longer who you were. The most important part of you is gone, and nothing can ever be the same. I miss my wife so much; I can’t stand it. It’s so painful to be alone.”

Without hesitating, Abbey agreed. “Most people don’t appreciate just how debilitating loneliness is until it happens to them.”

He looked around the office and then said, “I’m sixty-eight years old, and I’ve never been so isolated in my life. No matter how much longer I live, I know how it will all end……I’ll die with no one by my side.”

His honesty was brutal, and Abbey knew he could be right.

Marlin paused for a moment to regain his composure and then said, “I do need to get some food – but the real reason I came here is because you know what it’s like to lose someone……If you wouldn’t mind, could you please tell me about your daughter.”

Abbey was deeply touched that Marlin was making a sincere effort to connect with her. He had reached out to someone he didn’t agree with, and who he had disrespected – but now he realized that they had something profound in common. They had shared the very human experience of losing someone you love.

“My daughter would be twelve now. You’d think that after that much time the sense of loss would ease but it doesn’t. Each time I see a little girl about that age – it hurts so bad. I guess it always will.”

Marlin remembered how he had brushed off Abbey’s suffering, and now he couldn’t believe how cruel he’d been. Trying to overcome his shame, he asked, “What was your daughter’s name?”

Abbey studied the face of the man who had once been filled with such hate, but now she only saw a person that needed compassion and understanding. “Her name was Keisha.”

Marlin repeated it. “Keisha. It’s a lovely name.” He took a long weary breath and then said, “You tried to explain to me how health issues could impact someone. But I didn’t believe it could be that bad. Do you remember telling me about the woman with breast cancer and how her illness had impacted her life?”

 “Yes, I remember. She was very brave. She fought as hard as she could until the very end.”

Marlin’s face registered his shock. “That woman died?”

Abbey nodded. “She passed away about six months after you were here. Three small children lost their mother. It was heartbreaking.”

Marlin looked away as he remembered the way he had spoken about her clients. When he turned back, he asked, “How do you do it? How do you deal with suffering and unhappiness every day?”

Abbey sighed. “There are times when it gets me down. Some evenings I go home and wonder why life is so unfair. But no matter how difficult the circumstances might seem, it’s important to care because that is what gives us our humanity. When we stop caring, something inside of us dies, and we aren’t really living anymore.”

After wasting his life judging others, Marlin finally realized she was right. “I didn’t care – until it was too late.”

“Mr. Lucas, it’s never too late to start putting others first. And when you do, you find that even in the darkest of times, there are successes. I’ve seen people rebuild their lives and watched as others got back on their feet. I’ve witnessed unbelievable perseverance, and people who simply refused to give up. And in every case, our organization does its best to offer them assistance and to support them as they fight to overcome their personal struggles.”

With genuine admiration, he said, “I don’t know how you do it – but thank God you do.”

“I admit this job is not for everybody, but it suits me. I find it rewarding in a way that’s hard to explain.”

Marlin’s face crinkled. “I thought you were only in it for the money and the glory.”

Abbey threw her head back and laughed. “I didn’t realize it was that obvious!”

In a warm tone of voice that she had never heard, Marlin said, “I don’t know what I’d do if I hadn’t met you. I can’t even imagine how many other people feel the same way.”

Abbey was embarrassed but appreciative. “Thank you, Mr. Lucas……The important thing is you had the courage to come here, and I will do whatever I can to help you.”

“I hate to admit it – but I do need help. I’ve been having to decide between my medication and food. Because of the accident, I take a lot of meds. After my brain surgery, I began to have seizures. Four or five a day. I take medication to control them and it really makes a difference. I’m down to one seizure every week or two. But altogether, the prescriptions are expensive. Sometimes there is no money left.”

“That’s why the pantry is here.”

Marlin could not hide his frustration. “I can’t live without the meds, and I can’t live without food. How are you supposed to choose?”

Hesitating for only a moment, Abbey decided to reach out to Marlin in a personal way. “Please let me ask you a question. Obviously, you’re under no obligation to answer because the last thing I want to do is make you feel ill at ease – but I’d like to know where you are living right now……Do you at least have a roof over your head?”

Obviously embarrassed, Marlin said, “It doesn’t matter. If I can just get some food, I’ll be on my way.”

“No, no. It does matter……Mr. Lucas, I’ve dealt with people in difficult circumstances for a long time, and I can tell when someone is in crisis. You’ve been wearing the same clothes for a while, and you’ve lost so much weight that I barely recognized you. Please tell me where you are sleeping at night.”

Marlin didn’t want to admit the truth, but he was too exhausted to pretend anymore. In barely more than a whisper, he said, “I know this will sound crazy, but I’ve been sleeping under a highway overpass near the cemetery where Gina is buried. I just wanted to be close to her.”

Gina covered her mouth as the heartache she now felt for this man swept over her.

Marlin continued to speak so softly it was hard for her to hear. “I lost my home two months ago. We had lived there for thirty-eight years. I moved into a motel room for a couple of weeks, but the price of my medications went up, and I couldn’t afford to stay there anymore. Right now, I don’t have a way to cook, so I’ll just have to get something that’s ready to eat.”

His situation was even grimmer than Abbey had suspected. They sat in silence for a few moments while she considered what she could do to make a real difference in Marlin’s life. It didn’t take long for the answer to become obvious.

Carefully choosing her words, she said, “Mr. Lucas, my little house is a two-bedroom, and only one of them is being used. It’s not a fancy place, but you would have a comfortable bed and hot homecooked meals. Until we can figure out the best way to meet your needs, you are welcome to come and stay with me.”

Marlin stared at her in disbelief. He was so stunned by her proposal he didn’t know how to respond. Finally, he said, “Why would you make such an offer? I’m not worth helping. I’m nobody.”

Abbey reached over and took his hand. “Please don’t talk that way because it’s not true. Your life has been altered forever by a horrific event that was someone else’s fault. You’re doing the best you can under the most extreme conditions, but you deserve to live with dignity just like every other person. And that includes having food, shelter, and medical care.”

Marlin could not begin to understand how this woman could be so compassionate to someone like him. After the way he’d treated her, he did not think he deserved her empathy. In fact, he believed she had every right to turn her back on him. He had done everything he could to close the doors of this building, but Abbey was still willing to help him.

She seemed to be able to read his thoughts. “Mr. Lucas, in one sense, you are just like every other person that comes here. You have a basic human need that we can help you with. But in another way, you are remarkable because you’ve changed. You have stopped judging people, and you have embraced tolerance.”

Marlin said, “But look what it took to open my eyes. I’ve spent over six decades hating people I thought were different than me. I never dreamed I could end up just like them. My life has been a complete waste. How could I have been so blind?”

Abbey tried to reassure him. “The point is you have realized the truth, but all any of us can do is move forward day by day. We can’t change anything that came before – we just have to let it go……Of course, I realize that is easier said than done, but it is always worth the effort.”

“You don’t think it’s too late for someone like me?”

“Absolutely not.” Abbey looked into the face of a man who had gained wisdom through his suffering. “Mr. Lucas, you are living proof that anyone can change. But even if you still didn’t approve of what we do here, I would try to help you. Now, please, let’s go. I’ll cook some dinner, and we’ll get some good food in you.”

Marlin shook his head. “I just don’t think I should.”  

Abbey smiled, and asked, “Do you have a better offer?”

Marlin stared off into space for several seconds as he thought about the frigid cold he would have to endure if he turned her down. Finally, he looked intently at the kindest person he had ever met and let his pride go. Softly, he said, “Okay.”

Abigail Grisham pushed her chair back, stood up, took Marlin by the arm, and with warm compassion said, “Let’s go home.”

 

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