Chicken Soup for the Soul!

A little announcement:

I’m excited to let you know that an essay of mine has been published again in the Chicken Soup series!

“Weeding Baby Wendell” was first published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back (2015).

Now, the Chicken Soup folks have picked stories from past publications to form their latest, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Your 10 Keys to Happiness.

I was pleased to learn “Weeding Baby Wendell” was one of their choices!

Below is the original essay as first posted on my blog in 2013.

My grandmother, Nannie, could never have imagined how far her words would spread the day she casually told us kids, “If you see a need, fill it, and don’t worry about who gets the credit.”

Weeding Baby Wendell

I walk nearly every evening, rain or shine. Although the area where I live has sidewalks, ball fields, and open spaces where most people do their walking, I prefer to walk in the cemetery across the street. It’s nearly forty acres of rolling land full of mature trees and all manner of wildlife. It’s filled too, with many, many graves. Towards a back corner, just a few feet from a rusted section of chain link fence choked by honeysuckle, is baby Wendell’s grave.

On my daily walks I began to stop now and then to upright a vase, pull a weed, or pick up trash. I don’t always take the same route so I never focused on any grave in particular, just did what little thing needed to be done if I noticed, and kept walking. It was obvious when family or friends would tidy up around a grave and it became clear that some graves never got attention. No one ever visited baby Wendell and the little granite urn on his tombstone would fill with old leaves, grass clippings, and spider webs. The day I noticed wiregrass smothering his tiny tombstone, I decided to make baby Wendell a routine stop.

My daily walks also meant that the many visitors who came regularly on Sunday afternoons or holidays would see me at one place or another on the grounds. I’d often be mistaken for an employee as they stopped to ask, for instance, where section L was, which gate exited where, or the location of the main office.

One Sunday evening two elderly women, who I later realized had seen me many times, drove up as I was bent over picking a dead wasp out of baby Wendell’s urn. Not wanting them to think I was up to no good, I stood and walked towards them to say hello. They were all smiles and I was surprised when they began to thank me.

“We see you out here real often. How long have you worked here?” the first woman asked as she adjusted the bouquet of artificial flowers she held in her hand.

The second woman added “Yes, and after that last storm you were the first one we saw picking up sticks. It’s so good you work here.”

I watched the first woman struggle with her bouquet and said “Oh no Ma’am. I don’t work here, I just walk here.”

As it turned out, they were sisters who routinely came to put flowers on their brother’s grave. His is located just a few sites over from baby Wendell, between a dogwood tree and a very old azalea.

“But you’re here just about every time we come.” the first woman said, still fighting to get a grip on the bouquet in her hand, and looking puzzled that I didn’t work there.

“And looks to me like every time we’ve seen you, you’ve been working.” the sister added again.

I explained how I might randomly pick up a stick, or put some wind blown trash back in the can, but that they only saw me so often because I had one day noticed wiregrass smothering the tiny tombstone near their brother’s.

“I’m just weeding baby Wendell.” I said.

“Why? And you don’t work here?” the first woman asked as she lost her grip on part of the bouquet.

I’d never given it much thought. I walk there nearly every day and it was just part of my walk to upright a geranium now and then. I had occasionally remembered what Nannie, my grandmother, used to tell us kids back home. “If you see a need, fill it, and don’t worry about who gets the credit.”

“Well, we can’t thank you enough for all you do.” the first woman said as a tiny piece of her bouquet fell to the ground.

“It’s wonderful you would help for no reason.” the sister added.

They seemed about to tear up as they walked away. I never thought about getting credit for any of the random things I only sporadically did as I walked, but these two women had noticed and they had thanked me. Those tiny efforts took so little on my part, but to them they meant a lot. They noticed and they appreciated.

I suppose we all do the random nice things that we do because we know it’s right, and it’s kind. Baby Wendell could never thank me, and none of us imagine we’ll ever be thanked for the tiny things we do, and we may not believe anyone even notices. But out there for each of us is the equivalent of those two old ladies, noticing and appreciating.

I reached down and picked up the tiny piece of bouquet the woman dropped as she thanked me. When I finished pulling wiregrass I put those fallen flowers in the little urn.

“No need to thank me baby Wendell. You’re welcome.” I said.

Stuart M. Perkins


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131 responses to “Chicken Soup for the Soul!

  1. I do remember your story and have thought about it over the years. It would be wonderful if the whole world felt that we all should do a little something to help someone else.

  2. I got caught up in the story…congratulations on getting your story into “Chicken Soup”.

  3. Fantastic news! Celebrating your every success, Stu.

  4. Such a sweet story. I enjoyed reading it again. Congratulations on it being chosen for the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

    I always pick up trash on my walks, or bury a dead baby bird I find on the sidewalk. I even pick up worms on the sidewalk and move them to the grass, or place dead animals found in the street off the street so they don’t end up flattened. It just feels natural to tend to things that many just walk right by. I’m glad your Nannie taught you to do the same.

  5. I enjoyed reading it, thank you 🙂

  6. Wonderful post & CONGRATULATIONS on being published in the Chicken Soup series a second time. I just had a second story published in the new book ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul::Too Funny!’ that came out April 19. My first story was published in Chicken Soup in 2015. I did a book signing at Barnes and Noble last Saturday for the new Chicken Soup book & my story in it. It was a wonderful experience for the SECOND time & an honor to be part of the Chicken Soup “family.” Congratulations again. Maybe we will run into each other at a Chicken Soup ZOOM meeting for writers published in the series. AND it’s really cool to be paid … LOL

  7. Heartwarming inspirational story! Congratulations Stuart on getting published with them. It’s a gem of an addition!

  8. Congratulations on getting a wonderful story published by Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s clear why they chose to print your work–it exemplifies the type of kindness that deserves to be highlighted in our world. Small gestures done with great care.

  9. Diane A. Perkins

    I’m so glad that this essay was chosen for the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book. It’s lovely, and Nanny would be so proud that you are practicing what she practiced all of her life. Small acts of kindness make a difference. They are part of who you are. You might need to schedule a special walk past Baby Wendell’s resting site.

  10. Such a lovely story. Just goes to show that nothing we do goes un-noticed. Congratulations.

  11. First congrats and I agree it is truly such a beautiful story. Baby Wendell is lucky to have you even if he doesn’t know it 🙂.

  12. First I have seen this. There is a beautiful yard near where I live covered in flowers all summer long. This spring was the first time I’d seen the gentleman who lives there working on it. I too stopped to tell him what a difference it made. He was grateful.
    So thank you.

  13. Bravo! A good story and two good deeds: your gardening and your neighbours’ expression of gratitude.

  14. Congratulations on being selected to be included in Chicken Soup… the edition will be enhanced by the inclusion of your offering. ❤️👌🏽

  15. I love this story! I’m excited for you getting it published again. I hope many others are blessed reading it like have been 🙂

  16. Congratulations! It is such a good story with an important message. Thank you for doing good work.

  17. I, too, love a good cemetery walk. Over the years my wife and I have stopped in cemeteries from South Carolina to Texas – there’s always something (or someone) unusual, unique.
    My favorite cemetery remains Fairview in Grimes County, Texas where most of my immediate family reside now. Even though it’s a thousand miles from where we live in South Carolina, my Texas roots remain strong and the headstones never far from my heart.
    Congratulations on another publication – your stories touch universal nerves!

  18. Congratulations! It is definitely a story that fits well in that book. And it was a lovely story to read. It’s the small things that make such a big difference.

  19. Now many people will remember baby Wendell, for having been cared for by you. Sweet, uplifting story.

  20. Jessica Macbeth

    I can see why this got published and then republished. Not only does it remind us of something we all need to know and do, but it encourages us to do it with an open heart.

  21. What a beautiful story. Congratulations!

  22. This is so cooL!! Congratulations!

  23. Well-deserved congratulations!

  24. Looking at the world as a giant bowl to hold the soup, your cemetery treks bring/brought smiles to our faces as we read. In these day’s of a war, wild fires, tornadoes, political dividing and the like, smiles are so needed. Thanks for providing those smiles Stuart.

    As a side note my wife looks after Great Granddaughter #5, Alana, six months old, two days a week. In close proximity is a cemetery and when weather permits her carriage stroll ventures to those stones of remembrance. At seventy-nine the old girl walks 2-5 miles daily. I guess were she a runner we could call the cemetery route a dead-run. (Pun Intended} Thanks again from an aging follower. Congratulations! I shall share with your permission.

  25. Beautiful story. And congratulations!

  26. Another honor to be picked again for your essay. Proud of you! Again!!!

  27. Lovely and timeless!! Congratulations, Stuart!

  28. Lovely story. Wonderful way to live. Thank you for what you do and sharing the story here.

  29. Your writings are magical — always a treat to read.

  30. Congratulations on your story being chosen. I wonder who Baby Wendell belonged to.

  31. Congratulations, Stuart! And such a precious story that made my heart smile.

  32. Stuart,
    Another Home Run!
    Your daily walk has turned into a bit of a sacrifice. For when we are not in one place or another doing something or nothing, that something or nothing is being sacrificed one for the other. And sacrifice is the requisite for love.
    Baby Wendell by your description of his final resting place is familiar to me in that my grandparents grave was in a place not much frequented due to the many years that have passed since their passing. Among those graves near, they, too, were neglected, likely because, their loved ones have either moved on or passed on themselves. Yet at one time those graves revealed a love shown in their care. And you by your thoughtfulness have renewed that love for baby Wendell in simply tidying up a bit around his final resting place. Baby Wendell very likely is thanking you more than you know, just in that you cared enough to sacrifice some time taken from a walk.

    Congrats on the Chicken Soup publishing honor.
    As always, well deserved.

  33. You got my attention! If only….

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  35. I love this story, Stuart! Congratulations on having it published in the last Chicken Soup for the Soul!

  36. Thanks for sharing this. Your writings always have something special.

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  38. This is my first time reading Weeding Baby Wendell, and I have to say thank you. I just lost a friend last week and he has been demonized in the media, and I like to think that one day someone like you will see his resting place and think it deserves a little sprucing up. Those little acts of kindness to someone who can never repay you, someone you don’t know. Have you ever looked up the names of the sites you’ve helped clean up, such as Baby Wendells? I always feel some sort of obligation to know someone’s story, to share it with others, to keep their memory alive.

    • Very sorry about your friend. No I never tried to look up the family. I think Wendell died sometime in the late 1950s if I remember correctly. So I like to think (hope) his parents did all they could until they just couldn’t. Maybe I’ll try looking up the last name some time! Thanks for the comment and sorry to hear about your friend.

      • Thsnk you for your kindness. I like to think so, too. Nonetheless what a beautiful story it truly touched me. I hope I can give those small acts of love and kindness too throughout my life.

  39. Daily Poetry

    Congratulations, Stuart, you certainly earned it.

  40. Stuart, I want to link this blog to my upcoming post. Please let me know what the best link would be. I see you have posted it several times. Thanks in advance. Sue

    • Hi Sue! Using this latest blog link is fine of course. I appreciate that! If you’d like the link to when I first used it as a blog post (without all of my commentary about the Chicken Soup stuff…) I’ve attached that here. (Same story. I used it once as a blog post, then it was used twice by Chicken Soup. The second time was in the volume of stories it picked from past books) Thank you again, Stuart

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