I first noticed the lady with a bag in the late 1970s. I was a marketing professor at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. I have good memories of Huntington because of the people I met but mostly because my son was born there.
The golf bug had begun to nibble at me so I joined with an older professor and learned to play. Nearly 40 years later I can still remember the course, hot dog shack, wide-open fairways and the lady with a bag.
A giant oak tree was aging gracefully about 30 yards behind the green. I know the distance because I frequently found my golf ball near this tree. On the other side of the tree was the entrance road to the golf course that branched from a not heavily trafficked two-lane road.
The lady with a bag stood on the other side of the oak tree, oblivious to the golfers. Her eyes were fixed on cars as they sped by. In the two years I saw her, I never made eye contact with her or heard her voice.
I must pause to explain that most golfers aren't easily distracted by such things as a lady with a bag. My wife frequently asks me to look at the blue heron, or a gaggle of geese or a picturesque cloud formation. I prefer to remain blissfully unaware of the natural surroundings of golf. Trees, ponds and goose droppings are enemies of golf balls. So, it's no wonder that few golfers noticed the lady with a bag.
She had flowing, wavy brown hair that fell below her shoulders. She always wore a dress that looked home sewn. I remember she wore pearls and had some adornment in her hair and a scarf of some sort in her left hand. Her handbag was held in the bend of her right elbow. I never saw her without a bag in her arm.
It was a few months before I began to ask about her story. I didn't give her much thought at first. I just concluded she was waiting for her ride. As I began to play golf at various times and on weekends, I noticed she was always standing in the shade under the giant oak tree.
I finally asked the old golf pro, whose best skill was hot dog serving, about the lady with a bag. He knew her story because he had called the police about her many years prior to my questions.
It seems she was engaged to a fellow who went off to WWII. He proposed to the lady under the giant oak tree and said he would meet her again under the tree upon his return. He didn't. The old pro didn't know what became of the guy; the pro only knew that the lady had been coming to the tree every day for about 20 years. She did no harm to herself or others. She just came every day to wait for her fiancé.
The lady with a bag taught me about hope. You may think she was delusional. One man's delusion is another man's hope. I think she had more hope than anyone I've ever known.
Leaders must always inspire hope. Sometimes, I prefer hope over facts. Hope springs eternal.
In my life, the lady with a bag will always be my reminder to lead others as a merchant of hope.
"For we are saved through hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for why does a man still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Rom. 8:24-25).
Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.
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