Investing Without Money

Taking a break from the waiting room, I walked down the hospital corridor. That’s when I saw her name boldly engraved on a large plaque over the double doors. 

Mrs. L. was wealthy enough to have paid for the entire hospital, so seeing a wing named after her wasn’t surprising. But what was unusual was our friendship—all those years ago.

It began on an unbearably hot day. The strawberry pickers had finished hours ago, I’d moved the irrigation lines, and now was cleaning all the picking buckets. 

Just then, I saw the dust billowing behind a car coming to our farm. I groaned at the thought of more u-pickers. I just wanted to take a shower and be left alone.

An older woman hopped out of the car with energy that defied her tightly curled white hair. She wanted to pick, so I grabbed a clean bucket. If this old lady wanted to get on her hands and knees and pick in the hot sun, who was I to stop her?

I turned and went back to my chores. She returned in about 15 minutes with a half- bucket of pitiful berries. She needed more but was too tired to pick. I finally stopped thinking about my own hardships long enough to see an older woman who could use a cold drink of water.

She followed me into our trailer home, which was marginally cooler than the 100-degree temperatures outside. She slid into one of our ratty kitchen chairs and sipped a glass of water. 

She told me that she’d wanted to have fresh, local berries for some visitors. I led her into a bedroom that we’d converted into a “refrigerator” with a portable air-conditioner turned on high. Delicious berries were neatly stacked in small cardboard flats. 

She bought twenty-five pounds. She wrote me a check and that was the first time I saw her name—but I didn’t know she had millions more in her account. 

A few days later she called and asked if I’d mind bringing her some berries. She told me how to find her home—a solid rock palace was more accurate. I didn’t want to stare but it was hard not to. I sat in her kitchen sipping iced tea. She told me about how she and her husband had built their thriving multi-national business. In the early years, it had meant long hours with little reward.

She didn’t want me to give up—not in business, not in marriage. No amount of money could buy love or replace a broken marriage. In the coming years, she became my wealthy cheerleader. She invited me to ladies’ luncheons and business functions. I observed these affluent affairs with a poor man’s perspective. I could tell who really cared about Mrs. L and those who wanted to use her name to get ahead. She smiled at me knowingly. For us, it was never about her money; it was about being friends.

That was over 30 years ago. Now, staring at her engraved name, I wish I could have told Mrs. L how much her cheerleading helped me when I was feeling like such a failure. If she were still here, she’d probably smile and tell me it’s now my turn to be someone's cheerleader. She’d also remind me that it doesn’t take money; it just takes love.

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