Karen Alvarez was a well-liked old woman in the quiet town where she had always lived. Even though she lived alone, she never felt that way because she was friends with all her neighbors.
They would gather outside every evening, sharing the snacks and drinks they had prepared. Everyone in the neighborhood loved and trusted Karen, and often left their children with her in the afternoon when they needed to go somewhere. She would bake them cakes and teach them how to draw.
«Grandma Karen!» the children shouted. «Can you teach me how to draw SpongeBob?».
«Draw who?» she would ask whenever they mentioned a cartoon character she wasn’t familiar with. She always laughed with the kids, and felt they kept her young.
Karen would use the cell phone she had purchased with the help of her neighbors to look up those characters the children asked for. Then they would spend the afternoon drawing and coloring until their parents picked them up in the evening.
«Karen, what would we do without you?» one of the mothers said to her one night.
«Don’t worry, Carmen. I will always be here. I love your children so much. They are like my own grandchildren,» Karen replied, giving them a hug before watching them walk home.
Karen was happy taking care of those children, and she did it without expecting anything in return. However, her neighbors returned the favor with small tips that she used to buy groceries or medicine.
One day, on her way home from the supermarket, she was surprised to see an expensive-looking black car parked in front of her property. In her yard was a man in a suit and a lady in an impeccable outfit.
«Can I help you?» asked Karen when she reached her yard.
«Hi!» the lady said, taking off her sunglasses to greet Karen.
«We were just passing through the neighborhood and came across this lot. It’s a lot bigger than most of the ones here,» she began.
«Well, yes. This house has been with my family for generations. It was the first land where it was built in this area,» Karen explained.
«That’s good to know! My family and I wanted to move to this neighborhood because of its proximity to our children’s schools and my office. Would you be willing to sell us the land? I’m willing to pay top dollar for it,» the man suddenly interjected.
The offer took Karen by surprise, but she quickly responded:
«I’m sorry, but this land is not for sale and won’t be for as long as I live.»
«Do you live here alone?» the lady asked.
«I’m sure it can be quite overwhelming living here without company. Wouldn’t a smaller apartment suit you better? We’d be more than happy to arrange that for you, too, if you’ll sell us your lot,» the woman said as she clung to her husband’s arm waiting for the old woman’s response.
«I’m perfectly fine here. Thank you for your offer, but I will have to decline. Have a good day,» she said, as she walked across the front porch to enter the house.
Once inside, Karen saw that the couple had continued to look at the property for a few more minutes until they finally got into their car and drove away.
Meanwhile, Karen couldn’t help but feel puzzled by what had just happened. The lot had been in her family for decades and she had lived in the same house all her life. The very idea of selling it caused her discomfort.
One day a fire broke out in Karen’s house due to a short circuit. Desperate, the elderly woman grabbed the basics before rushing out of the house. Her neighbors comforted her as she watched her home burn. She was taken away by an ambulance and spent the night in a nursing home.
The next day, a nurse told her:
«Karen, I’m sorry to give you this news: your house burned to the ground last night. The fire spread too fast and the firemen couldn’t save you.»
«That’s too bad. I don’t have enough money to rebuild it,» she said, as tears streamed down her face.
The old woman was heartbroken; that house was the only home she had ever had.
«We are happy to provide shelter for you here at the nursing home. We will take care of you, and you can even interact with people your own age. It might be something you’ll grow to like,» the nurse said, trying to comfort her.
Karen felt helpless, as she had nowhere else to go. She had no children, and her sister’s children had their own lives and she didn’t want to bother them. So she agreed to move into the nursing home.
For months, Karen tried to adjust, but she was not happy. Although she enjoyed playing board games and taking walks with those who lived in the nursing home, she longed for the company of her neighbors, who were like family to her.
She often communicated with them by video call, and the children let her know how much they missed her.
«How are you, Grandma Karen, when are you coming to visit?» they would persistently ask.
During one of her calls, Karen asked her neighbor Carmen if they could pick her up to visit her neighborhood.
«Do you think you can sign my release papers so I can spend the afternoon in our neighborhood?» she asked.
«You know what, Grandma Karen? You asked just in time — there’s something I wanted to show you here too!», Carmen told her, smiling. «I’ll come get you tomorrow.»
That night, Karen couldn’t sleep. She was too excited to go back to the place she called «home.» She also couldn’t wait to see all the children and draw with them even if it was just for the afternoon.
When Carmen arrived, Karen rushed to give her a hug.
«My dear Carmen. Thank you for driving all the way to come get me,» she said.
«Of course, Grandma Karen, we love you so much! Now come on, everyone is waiting for you to come home,» Carmen smiled, holding her by the arm to lead her out the door.
As they drove through town, Karen was surprised to see a beautiful new house on her lot.
«Did they… they took my lot?» she asked sadly.
«It’s what they wanted. They kept coming back. But don’t worry, Grandma Karen. All of us neighbors told them that the land was not for sale,» Carmen explained.
«So why is there a new house here?» asked Karen, surprised.
At that moment, Carmen parked the car and they both got out to take a closer look at the luxurious new house that stood where the old one used to be.
«Well, that couple was amazed at how much this neighborhood loved you. So they held a fundraiser to build this new home for you, and they even donated a large amount! This is your new home!» said Carmen, excitedly.
Karen couldn’t believe her eyes.
«Is this mine?» she said in amazement.
«It sure is. Now, let’s take a look inside,» Carmen said as she led her up the stairs.
When the door opened, all her neighbors, their children and the generous couple were inside, ready to celebrate with her.
«SURPRISE!» they all shouted.
Karen was overwhelmed and filled with gratitude and happiness. She couldn’t help but sob on Carmen’s shoulders.
«This is the best gift I’ve ever received,» she said.
«Thank you. Thank you so much for giving me this beautiful home. For the last few months, I felt so lonely in the nursing home. I thought I was going to die there. But you kept me company throughout with your calls.»
«And now, you brought me back home. This is where I belong and I am so grateful to be able to live here again,» she said, as tears still streamed down her face.
Each person in the room took turns hugging her until it was the children’s turn.
«We have one more surprise for you, Grandma!» they said, taking her by the hands as they led her into one of the rooms.
«Here you can teach us how to draw every day!» the children exclaimed.
They entered a painting studio, fully equipped with all the materials they could possibly need.
«This is so beautiful,» Karen said with a beautiful smile.