One of the central characters in all three of my novels is an elderly lady named Belle Warner. Belle is patterned on a lady who was prominent in the community that I grew up in. Belle Warner is rich, lives in a mansion, is the “first lady” of her community, a respected leader in the telecommunications industry and a Christian.
Three women, each successful in their own right but each with significant life issues, interact with Belle in the stories. Each comes away from their encounter with Belle changed.
In Acquisition, Cindy Melzy is the CEO of an investment banking firm in New York City. Cindy is divorced and the mother of a young son. Cindy meets Belle while doing “due diligence” reviews of a potential acquisition of a telecom company owned by Belle’s family. Belle offers Cindy the opportunity to stay with her at her mansion.
When the review is over and Cindy prepares to fly back to New York City, the main character in the book, Wilson McCann, notes that Cindy seems changed and inquires about it. The dialogue goes as follows:
“Cindy, you seem…different,” he said quietly.
She turned towards him and placed her hand on his arm. She looked up at him and smiled. “In one week, I have changed more than I have ever thought possible, Wils.”
“I have found a new meaning in my life. Belle has shared some things with me that have helped me to see that I have misplaced my priorities. I intend to change that. “
In Sell Out, Linda McReedy is a beautiful hard-charging leader of an information technology team assigned to install state-of-the art management information systems in McCann’s company. She is coming off the breakup of a ten-year live-in relationship with a professional football player. She is also estranged from her family. She also spends most of a day with Belle and when McCann next sees her, the conversation goes like this:
“…I need to know what has happened to you. This morning you still had a chip on your shoulder and ‘life sucks’ and tonight you…you’…I mean…all this…what is going on?”
She sat the bowl (of potatoes that she had fixed for their dinner) back down and told him. She told him about Belle’s visit. She told him that she had given her life to Jesus Christ, she told him that she had called her parents and asked to come home and for their forgiveness and she told him that she had called Mike Divell (her boss) and apologized (for ranting at him and resigning) and asked for her job back.
In The Investment, Shelly Martinez is the daughter of illegal aliens who both died when she was four. She is also an accomplished photo-journalist who has a secret longing to find her place in the world around her. She spends the night in the mansion with Belle and they talk about her past and her present. The conversation between Shelly and Belle goes like this:
“I guess I’m like a lot of people my age. I’m wondering where my life is going. I wouldn’t want to be doing the same things ten years from now that I’m doing today. But, I’m not sure just what I want out of life,” Shelly responded. She was amazed at how this elderly woman could draw out things from her that she hadn’t voiced in a long time.
“Perhaps I can help you with that,” Belle said, setting her cup down on an end table beside her and picking up a small black leather bound book. Shelly saw that it was a well worn Bible.
Later that evening in her room, Shelly reads the passages in the Bible that Belle has marked for her. The story continues:
Shelly closed the Bible and sat thinking. She remembered the story of her parents’ coming across the border at night. That had risked everything they had to have a new life for themselves and, eventually, their daughter. She couldn’t remember much about her early life but her grandmother had told her that her father and mother were good Catholics and went to church every Sunday even though they feared that in doing so they might be found out and returned to Mexico. They had found a way to a new life. She was the beneficiary of that love and effort. Now, as she bowed her head, she asked God to open her heart to a new way of life as well, a way of life that would lead to seeing her father and mother and her grandmother again in the dwelling place that Jesus has prepared for them.
These are three intelligent successful women who have never met and who come from significantly different life experiences. Their common thread is that they have each spent time with a rich, prominent, elderly women who is a follower of Jesus Christ.
What is so special about Belle Warner and what can we learn from her character?
It seems to me that there are several things we can learn from Belle that will enhance our own Christian witness to others:
First, Belle Warner, despite her social status, makes herself available to all others.
Second, Belle is a good listener. She draws people out and listens attentively.
Third, Belle does not judge. She accepts each person as they are.
Fourth, Belle uses God’s word to provide guidance and offers up her own life experiences where they can be seen as supportive of the truth of that word.
I want to be like Belle. I want to be available to others, I want to listen and not judge and I want to share God’s word and how my own life experience supports what is written there.
How about you? Do you want to be like Belle?