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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)

TITLE: Tillie's Time
By Gerald Shuler


Officer Brewster brushed his holster with a light, reassuring touch as the drunk vagabond staggered across the street. 'This neighborhood is the pit,' he thought. 'What a waste of humanity!' The downtown district had battled the homeless problem for years but it seemed to be getting worse every day. Sure, times were hard but Brewster just couldn’t imagine anything that would bring a human being to this kind of degradation.

He looked at his watch. Ten more minutes. A frown momentarily crept in but he quickly replaced it with his public servant's smile. Without meaning to, his eyes wandered toward the old lady sitting on the ground under the maple tree. She had found some birthday candles in the trash and was busy melting wax and securing each candle to the middle of smashed beer cans. 'Poor Tillie,' Brewster thought. 'She’s gonna be heartbroken.' Tillie was the one bright spot in his dreary beat. She had shown up three months earlier and had become a tenant of the park, one salvaged piece of treasured trash at a time. Although her eyes always seemed a blink away from a tear she never had a negative thing to say about anyone. And now she was headed for an almost certain fall. He looked at his watch again. 'Five minutes,' he thought. He put his hand gently on the old woman’s shoulder.

“Tillie, they aren’t coming.” Brewster watched Tillie’s eyes flash brightly. “Nothing would please me more than to see even one of them show up, but…” He let the sentence just float away into the air because he could see that she wasn’t listening to his warning anyway.

For a week now she had been excited about her church’s Home Group meeting. She had been attending the meetings for several months but this was the first time she had invited the group to meet at her “home.” He could almost imagine the looks of shock when Tillie explained where she lived. 'Poor Tillie!'

Brewster looked around the park. Other homeless vagrants were beginning to gather a short distance from Tillie’s make shift camp. 'Oh, great! I didn’t need this!' A glance at Tillie told him that the vagrant guests had been expected. 'She invited them!' he thought. 'She is going to look like a fool when her rich church people don’t show up.' He looked at his watch again. Seven o’clock. He found himself regretting what he had to do.

“Tillie, it’s seven o’clock. I’m gonna halfta’ disperse this crowd if the church doesn’t show. I don’t want to trample through your hope garden but they just aren’t coming.”

“They gonna come.” Tillie adjusted a candle that had tilted slightly and then she lit it. “They gonna come ‘cause these people I invited need to hear the truth about Jesus. They don’t trust the church so I decided maybe they would come to my home for our Home Group meetin'.”

“I would love to think you were right, Tillie. All I’ve ever seen in churches is hypocrites. That’s why I don’t go to church anymore. I’ve been that route. They are all the same!”

The old woman smiled, lit her last candle and stood to her feet. She looked right at Officer Brewster. No… she wasn’t looking at him. She was looking past him. Brewster turned to see what she was looking at. Across the street was three newly parked cars, one a BMW and two of them Caddies. The doors on all three cars were opening and richly dressed couples were beginning to pile out of their carriages. Each had a bible in their hand and every one of them was looking at Tillie and waving like long lost friends.

Tillie put her hand on Brewster’s shoulder like he had done to her earlier. “Officer,” she said softly, “You must have been goin’ to church for the wrong reason!”

Brewster watched the gathering crowd of vagabonds and Christians seat themselves on the ground next to each other. He had never seen the likes! This was the way he had always thought the church should be but…

“Tillie?” Brewster asked. Tillie flashed him a glistening but toothless smile. “Tillie, would you mind if I join YOUR home group?”

He hadn’t expected this. It all seemed so clear now. He had never found a good church because he had never found Jesus. Brewster smiled to himself.

'I have the feeling that’s about to change!'

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This article has been read 1453 times
Member Comments
Member Date
jodie banner12/06/07
What a beautiful story.I loved the fact that the first person reached by Tillie's Homegroup was not a homeless person but someone who could support the groups continued success.
David F. Palmieri Sr.12/06/07
Beautiful, heartfelt story...

I am quite moved by the entire idea, nearly speachless.

A winner in my book...good job...

David F. Palmieri Sr.12/06/07
"trample through your hope garden"...wonderful line...
Jacquelyn Horne12/06/07
This is a good story. And very well written!
Rick Gray12/06/07
Very well written. I saw everything clearly and rejoiced that someone (You) finally knows what the church is really all about.
Well written. Keep up the great writing.
Sara O Rodriguez12/06/07
WOW!!! what an awsome story! concise and to the point. Excellent job!
Julie Ruspoli12/06/07
This one needs a tissue warning. I couldn't read fast enough to see if they came. Such a clever idea and the story flowed well. Character dialog was great. Good Job!
Pamela Kliewer12/07/07
Great story! You will drew me in... I too, liked the line about the hope garden.
Beckie Stewart12/08/07
This truly is excellent. Humble Christians. With so much pride abounding, this was nice to read. Would actually love to see this in real life!!
william price12/08/07
A very strong entry with masterful flashes of brilliance. I didn't plan on reading the whole story, but it kept sucking me in. Very good job. I wish you would have given some visuals for Brewster. Had no idea what he looked like or how old he was. By some of his thoughts in the 1st paragraph I assumed he was a young officer. I also think you had the opportunity to give us more to see about Tillie. With a fuller characterizaion of Tillie and Brewster and a little polishing of some sentence structure this would have been even more outstanding than it is. I look forward to finding out who wrote this. God bless.
Brenda Welc12/08/07
Great writing, sweet story. You had me from beginning to end!
Joanne Sher 12/10/07
You definitely wrapped me up in this story. What a wonderful witness.

You have some good advice above - the only thing I would add is that, personally, I probably would have ended the story with the officer asking to join Tillie's home group. In my opinion, that would be a bit of a stronger finish.

Enjoyed this very much.
Jan Ackerson 12/10/07
Great story! It's almost more of an allegory than a short story, because it may not be particularly realistic--but it works very well on that level; you probably intended it that way! Your writing style is fresh and engaging.
Patty Wysong12/10/07
You drew me in and held me. Even though I wondered about the actual feasibility of this I know it Could happen. The bond of Christ Is that strong. Good job!
Sheri Gordon12/10/07
You developed a very charming character in Tillie. I hope she shows up in more of your stories.

I agree with Joanne. I think you could have ended with the officer asking to join the group -- that's a very strong ending.

Great job with the topic. I really enjoyed reading this.
Temple Miller12/11/07
I absolutely loved your story. Your imagery is excellent, allowing me to "see" the setting. And your message is beautiful.
Tim Pickl12/12/07
Excellent job -- excellent story -- it kept my attention all the way through -- and makes me want to find out what happened next!
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/12/07
Not just unique, this is a sweet, captivating story.
LaNaye Perkins12/12/07
This is a beautiful and touching story. Well done.
Lauren Page12/13/07
There's only one word I can think of to describe this story; beautiful. ^-^