Time is a funny thing. Ten minutes can change your whole life. On the other hand, twenty years can seem to make no difference at all.
In his book Front Porch Tales, author and Quaker minister Philip Gulley tells of going back to his folks’ home one spring to help celebrate his nephew’s first birthday. While he was there, he took a walk around the old neighborhood and saw, working out in their yards, a number of folks he hadn’t seen in years.
As he strolled along, he saw one old gentleman he remembered very well, Mr. Amos Welty, raking leaves to clear the way for six months of the beautiful flowers for which the Welty yard was famous. The crocuses were already up, and Philip stopped to look at them. Seeing him, Mr. Welty walked over to talk, which made Philip a bit nervous.
You see, twenty years before, when Philip had left for college, he and Mr. Welty had parted as enemies. As Philip explains, back then Mr. Welty was a sour man and just downright mean. He liked his yard a good bit more than he liked people. One day when Philip had made the mistake of walking on Mr. Welty’s grass, Welty had actually thrown a shovel at him.
But Philip recalled, “I upped the ante the next day by nailing him with a water balloon. He was pulling weeds, stood to stretch, and I caught him amidships—POW!”
Mr. Welty responded by calling the town police officer, Charlie Morelock, and an all-points bulletin ensued. Officer Morelock didn’t have to look long. He found Philip back in his own front yard.
Philip recalls, “He [Officer Morelock] stopped his cruiser, climbed out, and walked toward me with his hand on his gun. He drew near, reached out, laid his heavy hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘Good shot.’ He didn’t like Mr. Welty either.”
So it was with a bit of trepidation that, twenty years later, Philip saw Mr. Welty heading his way.
He needn’t have worried. Mr. Welty smiled, extended his hand, they shook, and they had a nice talk about the beauty of spring in general and flowers in particular.
“Twenty years ago, he [Mr. Welty] had been corroded with anger; now he was gentleness personified. He had changed.”
When Philip talked to his dad about it, his dad said that after Mr. Welty’s mother had died some years after Philip had left, he had become a very nice man. All alone in the world, he realized that, rather than throwing shovels at children, he was better off inviting them in for bubble gum and cookies. The yard had a few bare spots now, but Mr. Welty had friends, and his home was a much lovelier place.
And isn’t it a lovely thing to know that some people really do change?