The right bid won

It looked as though developers would win the auction and build another McMansion, but a garden lover foiled their plans.

My colleague Sally loves to garden, and that's what she does most weekends. But one weekend was different. She went shopping instead, and, without planning to, bought a house. It took a while for me to figure out that it was still all about the flowers.

Here's how our conversation went on Monday morning:

"Good morning!"

"Good morning. I bought a house this weekend."

"Um, don't you already have a house?"

"I do, but I bought another one."

Movie stars might purchase real estate on impulse, but not teachers. So I kept asking questions until I got the whole story.

Sally was gardening on Saturday morning, and there was an auction down the street. She went to look at the dishes and knickknacks for sale and found more than she expected.

"I had no idea that the garden behind that house was so big!" she said. "Part of it is a sunken garden, and there are so many plants there, I didn't even know the names of all of them."

Sally was also surprised by how large the house was inside. She learned that the house itself would be auctioned off that day, so she stayed to observe the auction, out of curiosity.

To get into the auction, she had to accept a bidding card. She held it in her hand while she watched other people bid.

"I knew if those boys got the house, they would destroy that beautiful garden!" she said. The "boys" in question were the only two people bidding on the house. After watching these young men for a while, Sally surmised that they were real estate developers, who would very likely raze the house and build apartments on the lot.

After 36 years of teaching elementary school, Sally knew something was wrong when she saw it. Although the two men appeared to be bidding against each other, she could easily detect their furtive glances at one another. She decided that they were really working together, maybe to discourage other bidders from trying.

When the bidding lulled at a bargain price, Sally's indignation took over. She lifted her card high, and the auctioneer took notice.

The two other bidders looked alarmed. Who was this surprise bidder, upsetting their plans? They looked around and saw the competition: a medium-tall, middle-aged black woman dressed in rags – Sally was still in her gardening clothes – and she was bidding with all the righteous determination of a conservationist out to save one small corner of the world. Those guys didn't stand a chance.

She drove the price up beyond the point where they could demolish, rebuild, and still make a profit. "When one of them scratched his head, that's when I knew I had him!" she recounted with glee.

The developers withdrew from the bidding, and the auctioneer asked Sally to stand. From somewhere in the audience behind her, she heard a voice say, "It doesn't look like she has $10, let alone...."

Right then a woman nearby leaned over to say, "That was marvelous. Do you do this often?" Sally just shook her head and smiled.

Sally ended up renting out the house, and she found the perfect tenants: a young florist and her husband. Now, when Sally comes home at the end of the day, she often finds beautiful bouquets on her porch. The florist creates them from flowers in the garden, and her husband walks them down the street to Sally's.

It's not just the tenants who are grateful. It's as though the flowers themselves are saying thank you – thank you for seeing us, for loving us, and especially for saving us.

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