Wanda loved helping, but she especially loved doing it without people knowing. When a woman would have a baby, Wanda would sew a baby quilt, wrap it, and put it on the step of the new parents’ home. If someone had surgery, she would make sure to leave some food by their door. She always had a magnificent garden and shared most of it with others who were out of work or for some other reason could use the food. She was always looking for some way to help.

One day, the leader of her church congregation called her into his office. “Wanda,” he said, “I have always admired your yard and gardens. If you have looked around the church, you probably have noticed that the shrubs are quite overgrown and lackluster in their appearance. I was wondering if you would take on the assignment to spruce them up a bit. I’m not expecting you to do it alone, you can ask others to help, but I would really appreciate it if you could use your expertise to improve the church landscape.”

Wanda had always felt she had somewhat of a green thumb and readily agreed. She didn’t think she really needed any help, either. She immediately set about trimming and fertilizing the shrubs. Trimmed shrubs don’t look good at first, but it wasn’t long before they were filling out and were beautiful. She was pleased when she would hear people talk about the beautiful changes they were seeing in the church grounds.

Being the person she was, she always wanted to go above and beyond the norm. She looked for other things she could do. She noticed that some of the shrubs were not getting enough water. She checked out the sprinklers and realized the water patterns the sprinklers sprayed were not hitting the shrubs just right. She went to a garden store, and they sold her the parts and tools she needed. Then they taught her how to make the adjustments. She worked until the sprinklers were perfect, and she was soaked.

When she finished that job, she realized there were indoor plants in the church and wondered if they also needed watering. She went in and felt the soil in each plant. The soil was extremely dry. She felt the plants looked okay, but they didn’t look near as good as the ones she took care of outside. She took it upon herself to hand-water the indoor plants three times per week.

As the weeks passed, the yards outside grew more beautiful. Wanda felt the plants inside did, too, but she wasn’t sure. But she kept watering them anyway. Then one day, she heard the church leader discussing the indoor plants with a parishioner.

“You know, I think these plants are looking tired and worn,” the church leader said. “Perhaps we should get some new ones.”

The parishioner nodded. “I’ll haul them away and purchase some replacements.”

But when the parishioner went to lift the first plant, he couldn’t budge it. “This has got to be the heaviest plastic plant I have ever seen,” he said.

Plastic plant? Wanda’s heart started to pound. Had she been watering plastic plants? She realized the reason the man couldn’t move the plant was because the sand in the plant’s pot was full of water—water she had put there.

Wanda confessed what she had done, and it took all three of them to move the plant. When they did, they found the carpet beneath it was wet and mostly rotted away. Wanda felt horrible, but the church leader just smiled at her.

“Wanda, don’t worry about it,” he said. “The carpets in the church needed replacement, anyway. We’ll just move the date up a little.”

Then he kindly looked her in the eye and said, “I would gladly replace the carpet or anything like it a dozen times over it if everyone in our congregation tried to help as much as you do.”

Wanda smiled. She would continue to help. But she would be more careful not to water plastic plants next time.

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com, to buy his books.