Authors: Anne Marie Rodgers
Tales from Grace Chapel Inn
ANNE MARIE RODGERS
Saints Among Us
Published by Guideposts
16 East 34th Street
New York, New York 10016
Copyright © 2010 by Guideposts. All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.
Distributed by Ideals Publications, a division of Guideposts
2636 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 120
Nashville, TN 37214
Guideposts, Ideals and Tales from Grace Chapel Inn
are registered trademarks of Guideposts.
The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.
All Scripture quotations are taken from
The Holy Bible, New International Version
. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.
Cover by Deborah Chabrian
Design by Marisa Jackson
Typeset by Aptara
Printed and bound in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
n memory of the unforgettable Patricia Zimmerman, “Mrs. Z.,” and in honor of Cookie Beck, Tara Oravec, Jill Morningstar, Terri Biesecker and Debi Duffey, who, despite their grief, put on happy faces to welcome the children of Trinity Nursery & Playschool. It was a privilege to work with you.
This story is for every huge-hearted person who left family, home and work to rescue animals left behind during Hurricane Katrina evacuation efforts. Saints do walk among us.
—Anne Marie Rodgers
A place where one can be
refreshed and encouraged,
a place of hope and healing,
a place where God is at home.
ood morning.” Alice Howard entered the kitchen of Grace Chapel Inn with a smile. The kitchen was one of her favorite rooms, with its cheerful paprika-painted cabinets, black-and-white tiled floor and maple accents.
Her sister Jane already was working on breakfast, expertly cracking eggs into a bowl with one hand. Jane’s long dark hair was twisted up at the back of her head, and she wore robin’s-egg-blue cotton pants. An oversize shirt in the same hue covered a white knit T-shirt. When she spotted Alice, Jane stopped her baking preparations and wiped her hands. “Good morning.”
Alice, Jane and their eldest sister Louise had inherited the imposing Victorian family home upon their father’s passing. Since then, they had successfully transformed their treasured home into an inn.
Jane handed Alice a mug of hot tea from which a welcoming wisp of steam curled. “I can’t wait for you to try this new blend. Time for Tea just received a new selection of British teas, and Wilhelm recommended this one especially for you.”
Wilhelm Wood owned the small, elegant tea shop on Berry Lane in the small town of Acorn Hill, Pennsylvania.
“What’s it called?” Alice cupped her hands around the warm mug with a grateful smile. Her bobbed coppery hair was brushed, and over her white uniform she was wearing a pink nurse’s smock printed with bandaged teddy bears. She would leave soon for an upcoming shift at the hospital in Potterston.
“Bluebell Delight,” Jane replied. “I bought several new flavors to try out on our guests, but I thought we should sample them first.”
Alice inhaled the fragrant scents from the drink. “This smells wonderful.” She walked to the small television that the sisters kept in a corner and picked up the remote control. “Isn’t it silly to keep the remote control beside the TV?” she asked whimsically. “There’s a reason it’s called a remote, you know.”
Jane laughed, her blue eyes twinkling. “I never thought about it. We watch it so seldom.”
Alice nodded. People frequently remarked on the peace and tranquillity the inn afforded its guests, something the sisters attributed to the absence of televisions and computer access in the rooms. The small TV in the kitchen was the only one in the entire inn. It was used sparingly to watch the news or an occasional cooking show.
Alice turned on the television. “I’m anxious about how things are going down south today.”
Jane’s expression sobered. “Oh, those poor dear people. I can hardly imagine the suffering.”
Five days earlier, a late-season hurricane had barreled into the Gulf Coast of the United States, devastating sections of Florida and Alabama. The images of dazed survivors wandering through rubble searching for family members had riveted the nation ever since. Relief efforts streaming into the region from around the country were experiencing frustrating delays because of the destruction. Roadways were blocked, and the Pensacola airport had been damaged so badly that it was closed to air traffic pending repairs.
The sounds of the news filled the kitchen as the network anchors shared more sad stories.
“Look, Jane.” Alice stood before the television. “There’s another dog. Isn’t anyone doing anything for the animals?” Worry marked her tone. With her soft heart and gentle nature, Alice had a genuine affection for animals. As a child, she had been drawn to help creatures in distress, and she now watched the hurricane coverage anxiously as reporters focused on human stories while saying very little about the plight of companion animals and wildlife in the affected areas.
Jane came to stand beside her sister. On the news program, a small white dog cowered beneath a plank propped at a crooked angle against a concrete slab. The little dog took several tentative steps toward the woman with the microphone. “Animals are everywhere,” the reporter said. “The weather bureau did not expect this to become a category four storm, and people who evacuated assumed they’d be coming home again in a day or so.” She gestured to the pile of rubble and to the dog. “This dog is probably someone’s pet, perhaps left at home with food and water.”
As she finished her broadcast, she walked away from the white dog without a backward glance.
“What is wrong with her?” Alice demanded. “How could she just walk away from that poor little creature? He was looking to her for help.” Alice was near tears.
Jane put a comforting arm around her older sister’s shoulders. “Maybe after the cameras were turned off, they did help,” she suggested.
“I hope so.” But Alice didn’t sound convinced. “I know it’s important to focus on saving human lives, but I don’t understand why animals can’t be helped at the same time.”
“Come sit down.” Jane waved Alice toward the table. “I’m making mushroom-and-mozzarella omelets this morning, and yours is almost ready.” A chef by profession, Jane put her skills to good use preparing breakfasts for the inn’s guests as well as for the sisters.
Alice sat but wasn’t diverted from the topic. “Last night, I read in the newspaper that any animal-relief efforts have to wait until rescuers are certain they’ve taken care of all the people first. How long will that take? That little dog could die before anyone is allowed in there to give him food or water.”
Jane winced. “Is there a Red Cross for animals? Who organizes relief efforts for something like this?”
Alice shrugged. “I have no idea. I’ve never heard of any organized rescue group for animals in disasters.” Her brows drew together in an unusually fierce expression. “But there should be something.”
“Should be something for what?” Louise Smith, Alice and Jane’s oldest sister, swept into the kitchen. She was dressed in a simple but elegant navy suit with an ivory blouse and her signature string of pearls. Her short, stylishly cut hair gleamed silver in the bright kitchen light.
“For animals,” Alice told her. Then she paused. “You look lovely today. Not that you don’t usually,” she added hastily. “But you’re dressed up a bit more than normal.”
“I am attending a seminar at the Riverton Historical Society today,” Louise informed her.
“Oh, that’s right,” Jane said. “The one about Henry Harbaugh.”
Louise nodded. “And the influence of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania.”
“Didn’t he write ‘Jesus, I Live to Thee’?” Alice asked. “That’s such a beautiful hymn.” Her voice wavered. “It was one of Father’s favorites.”
“We sang it at his funeral,” Jane remembered. She quoted. “‘To die in Thee is life to me / In my eternal home.’ What inspirational words.”
“Yes. I found it comforting,” Alice said, “to be reminded that Father’s life in heaven was beginning.”
“Have some tea.” Jane set a mug in front of Louise as she took a seat. “I got some new varieties from Time for Tea. You and Alice are my guinea pigs.”
Louise, like Alice before her, took an appreciative sniff. “If it tastes as good as it smells, it’s a winner,” she proclaimed.
Alice’s day passed quickly. It was the beginning of November and right on schedule, flu and pneumonia were beginning to make their annual pilgrimages through the southeastern Pennsylvania population. However, as busy as she was, Alice was unable to forget about the animals suffering in Florida. It seemed every patient in every room she visited had his or her television turned to news of the disaster.
While she was giving Mrs. Guilfoyle’s granddaughter discharge instructions for the diabetic older woman, the other patient in the room was watching a disaster update. In the background, Alice caught a glimpse of two Siamese kittens rummaging through a destroyed home.
Those kittens need help
, Alice thought. And the amorphous idea that had been forming in her brain all week finally took solid form. “I’m going there,” she said aloud.
“Can I come too? I need milk and bread,” said the aging dementia patient.
Alice laughed. “Of course you can,” she said cheerfully, patting the woman’s hand gently. Then, when she left the room, her work there completed, she said to herself again, “I’m going, if I can just figure out how to help.”
Later that day, Alice returned home from work and changed her clothes, then checked in two new arrivals while Jane buzzed around in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal.
Louise came home as Jane finished making the Waldorf salad. “I invited Aunt Ethel for dinner. Perhaps we should eat in the dining room,” she announced. “She’s got some new plan to raise money for Helping Hands, and she can hardly wait to share it with us.” Helping Hands was Grace Chapel’s local outreach ministry, designed to assist residents.
Jane grinned. “I guarantee you our names are beside several volunteer jobs already.”
As Alice hung up the red dish towel she’d been using, she said, “It’s for a good cause, so I don’t mind.”
“Oh, I’m sure I won’t either,” Jane assured her. “I just hope my tasks involve baking something.” She turned to Louise. “Is Lloyd also joining us?”
Lloyd Tynan was a special friend of Ethel’s, and he frequently joined them for dinner when Ethel came.
“I don’t believe so,” Louise replied. “Aunt Ethel said there is an auction in Potterston tonight that he wants to attend. Apparently, there are a number of those political buttons and memorabilia that he collects up for bid.”
Just then, a distinctive “Yoo-hoo!” sounded in the front hallway.
“There’s Aunt Ethel now,” Alice said.
“Excellent timing. This is just about ready.” Jane expertly lifted the stuffed chicken with herb sauce onto a serving plate and set it on the counter with several other dishes.
Ethel Buckley entered the kitchen just after Jane had disappeared into the storage room to get a suitable tray. “Hello, dear,” she said to Alice.
“Hello,” Alice replied. She took in the particularly vibrant shade of her aunt’s red hair. “Did you have your hair colored today? It’s looking especially pretty.”
Clearly pleased, Ethel patted her brilliant coiffure. “You have a good eye, Alice. I did, indeed.” She sniffed the air. “What’s for dinner? It smells delicious.”
“Jane made baked chicken,” Louise said as she led the way into the dining room. “But you know Jane’it’s not just any old baked chicken. My taste buds are begging already.”
Alice set new potatoes and snow peas on the table and began filling bowls with the Waldorf salad. Louise poured water into each of the pretty painted glasses that complemented the china.
Jane bustled into the dining room with a crowded tray that she set on the buffet. “Hi, Aunt Ethel.” She stopped and took a closer look at her aunt. “Your hair looks…bright tonight. In a beautiful way, of course,” she added.
Louise was smiling. “Titian Dreams, right? The name of the shade is quite fitting.”
“I think so too.” Ethel beamed. “Every time I glance in the mirror, I’m delighted.”
As they all took their seats, Jane asked, “Alice, would you like to offer the prayer?”
The four women joined hands and Alice shared a prayer. She made special mention of the victims of the hurricane, including the animals that so concerned her. As they began to pass the dishes around the table, she said, “I came to a decision today.”
“A decision about what?” Louise asked.
Alice took a deep breath. “About traveling down to help with animal rescue in the disaster area. I’ve been thinking about it for days, and I’m going to find out if there is a group I could volunteer to work with.”