A garden of gratitude

A Christian Science perspective: While caring for a seasoned gardener's geraniums next door, this neighbor found a new reason to be grateful for life's beauty.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Christian Science Monitor

A good friend of mine, Nelson, who lives up in North Carolina, told me a story about something that happened to him some time ago. Nelson is a really nice guy and loved by everyone who knows him. He lives next door to a woman who is a great flower enthusiast and seasoned gardener.

One day she told him that she needed someone to watch over her flowers while she was on vacation, in particular, the geraniums growing in pots on her porch and around the front of her house.

She spent quite a bit of time telling Nelson about the flowers and the importance of spending enough time to make sure that they flourished. Apparently geraniums need a lot of help and should have good drainage and fertilizer. She also stressed the importance of deadheading, pinching off the flowers that have died to make room for more blossoms and richer growth of new flowers.

Nelson agreed, and, being the responsible guy that he is, took this assignment seriously. For the first few days after she left, he trudged over to his neighbor’s yard, scanning all the flowers in the pots for dead blossoms. He dutifully pinched off the dead ones and threw them away.

At this point in the story, Nelson got that wistful, far-off look in his eyes, the kind that makes you know that something profound is coming, that you are not nearly as smart as the guy talking, and that you might learn something. Nelson was like that.

He told me that on his morning trip next door four days after he began deadheading, as he gazed at the pots he noticed how brilliant and colorful the geraniums were. He suddenly realized that he had spent the first part of the week focusing on the dead flowers, looking intently for the “dead and gone” and what he could “bury.” He realized that he had overlooked the beauty of the entire garden and each individual plant by looking for death instead of life. He became incredibly grateful for life and being.

While he dutifully continued his job pinching off the dead blossoms every day, he had a new appreciation for the beauty of the living flowers and for how he had been so distracted by looking for the dead blossoms that at first he’d missed the show.

In thinking about our conversation, I started to realize how often in my own life I have concentrated on the dead flowers in my experience and missed some of the beauty of all the good that is going on. How often discouragement, failure, missed opportunities, and fear have kept me from being grateful for life, from seeing the beautiful, the good, and the true picture. How sometimes, in my focus on acquiring or keeping money or material objects – things – or pursuing less than noble goals or viewing situations negatively, I had overlooked life’s most wonderful treasures, failing to be truly grateful for all the good in my life.

The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” alerted her readers to the power of gratitude. She said: “We plead for unmerited pardon and for a liberal outpouring of benefactions. Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more. Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech” (p. 3).

As a result, by changing my thinking, I can now see the tremendous power in being grateful for the good that surrounds us, for every loving and joyful thought, for family, for friendship, for being alive and able to share God’s love with those around me, and with those far off who are in my thoughts. Gratitude for seeing life instead of death and its faded blooms.

As a gardener myself, I love this verse of a hymn:

A grateful heart a garden is,
Where there is always room
For every lovely, Godlike grace
To come to perfect bloom.
(Ethel Wasgatt Dennis, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 3, © Christian Science Board of Directors).

It is surely true, as the saying goes, “Seeds of discouragement will not grow in a thankful heart.”

Adapted from the author’s blog.

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