Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A long ago kindness honored January 4, 2019

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Edited image of a single rose in a bouquet of 12.


FORTY SOME YEARS AGO, I bought lunch for her. In Mankato. Neither of us remembered exactly when or where. But my friend recalled one important detail which she shared shortly after arriving at my Faribault home late Thursday morning. It was the reason she carried a dozen pink roses.

That Debbie would bring me roses seemed a bit much I thought as she walked in the kitchen door and we hugged. We hadn’t seen each other in decades. Our connection is not a deeply-rooted friendship. It just did not make sense that lunch and a visit would prompt Debbie to bring flowers.

Then she explained. When I bought her lunch those four decades ago, she was a poor college student with only $1.50 in her pocket. We met then to talk shop as Debbie considered accepting a reporting job at the same Minnesota weekly newspaper where I once worked. She wanted the scoop. As a young professional earning a salary, I didn’t think about Debbie’s finances. I just said, “Let’s do lunch.” And Debbie showed up.

I had no clue back then of her meager monies. But Debbie arrived at the restaurant with a plan to simply buy herself coffee. And then I offered to pay for her meal.

All these decades later she recalled that simple act of kindness. I had no idea how much my generosity meant to her. But now she wanted me to know, expressing her gratitude with those roses.

Debbie would go on to work at the same newspaper where I once reported. On Thursday we exchanged war stories about sources and too many long board meetings and the challenges of being journalists at a small town newspaper. I blazed the path for her, she said. I’d never considered that. But I knew she was right.

We talked, too, about children and grandchildren and challenges in life and our faith and much more. Debbie is the kind of person who, even if you haven’t seen her in years, you can pick up the conversation and feel like time has never separated you. We share values and work experiences and a certain comfortableness that marks our friendship.

And to think it all started with conversation and mentoring over lunch and me picking up the tab. Sometimes you don’t realize the value in a simple act of kindness. You just do what’s right. And then one day the kindness circles back with unexpected joy. And the blessings of a friendship renewed.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Valentine’s Day love in a poem February 14, 2015

WHEN IS THE LAST TIME you received a handcrafted valentine?

Mine arrived this week via 13-year-old Hannah’s dad handing her homemade valentine to my husband at a church meeting. Randy in turn delivered a yellow construction paper envelope to me.

What a sweet surprise to receive a valentine greeting from this creative teen.

See, I really was busy taking photos, here of Hannah. She's quite the artist who not only paints, but also sews. Plus, she writes poetry.

A photo I snapped of Hannah several years ago as she painted a block on a basement wall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Hannah, the daughter of dear friends, and I share a special connection. We are creative types. Specifically, we write poetry, the reason Hannah addressed the envelope to “My Poet Pal.” Ah. Melted my heart right then and there.

Hannah's poem, "Snow."

Hannah’s poem, “Snow,” posted in Sibley Park in Mankato.

Several years ago I began mentoring Hannah in poetry. She loves words and rhythm as much as I do. And, like me, she had a poem selected last spring for inclusion in the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. You can read all about that by clicking here.

When I lifted the flap on the yellow envelope where Hannah had glittered my name in silver, I was not surprised to find she had penned a valentine poem:

Hannah's poem is especially fitting since I donated blood recently via the American Red Cross. Hannah had no way of knowing this.

Hannah’s poem is especially fitting since I donated blood recently via the American Red Cross. Hannah had no way of knowing this.


But wait, there’s more. My valentine is green, not red. Hannah knows that green is my favorite color.


If you’ve ever mentored a young person, you know that this nurturing and encouraging and caring blesses you as much as the recipient. To connect, to share a passion—whether in poetry, gardening, crafting, photography—is a gift. A gift.

The valentine Hannah created just for me.

The valentine Hannah created just for me.

This Valentine’s Day, I received more than a handcrafted valentine from Hannah. I received a heart full of love.

IF YOU’VE MENTORED a young person, I’d like to hear about it. Or if you’ve received a handcrafted valentine, I’d like to hear about that, too.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Poem is copyrighted by Hannah.