Yosemite (pronounced yosematee) National Park, USA, is a very special place. Located in NE California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this breath-taking valley and surrounding granite mountains are a natural wonder to behold.Unfortunately for Native Americans who called this area home, they were driven out by Euro-American settlers, starting in the mid 1800s. By 1864 it had gained enough notoriety that President Lincoln granted this area to the state of California. Thanks to the efforts of John Muir, a naturalist, among others, this valley was designated a national park in 1890. Thus, the grandeur of the valley and surrounding mountains were preserved for future generations to explore and enjoy. I sincerely hope the original inhabitants can somehow maintain a connection to such a magical place. Ansel Adams, the great photographer whose black & white images of Yosemite continue to enthrall people from all walks of life, did much to bring this treasure to the forefront of American consciousness. Yosemite continues to draw people from all over the globe.
Every May Day (May 1st) was a day of celebrating the end of a long winter, the promise of a fruitful summer, and a pinch of kindness. The act of kindness which our mother taught us involved flowers and anonymity! The flowers were usually lilacs because our home was blessed with a row of bountiful lilac bushes. These bushes often produced bumper crops of the largest, most colorful, and fragrant lilac blossoms I have ever seen. Simply to view them from afar and catch a whiff of their scent was pure joy.
Rather than call our sharing of these wonderful blossoms a random act of kindness, it was actually a deliberate act of kindness. Randomness has no place in my way of relating to kindness…either you are kind and perform acts of kindness on purpose or you don’t. Simple, but that’s how I see it.
This particular act of kindness went something like this; we made construction paper baskets with paper handles. The colored construction paper was decorated with warm messages and the best child drawings we could create. Mom would encourage us, but left the designs to us. The ‘baskets’ were shaped into a curve to hold the flowers. We would select the biggest and most colorful blossoms, clip them from the bushes and fill our baskets to the brim. Sometimes we would make three or four baskets each.
Next, we would give serious consideration as to whom would receive our treasures. This took some effort as we graded our neighbors based on their kindness, perceived need, whether they received a basket the previous year, and so on. Again, mom would offer her input, but left the final decisions to us.
Then came the exciting part. We would stealthily walk the neighborhood, hiding behind cars, trees and bushes until it was time to strike. I shudder to think what would happen to us if we did such a thing in today’s culture of fear. Back then we were free. When we thought the ‘coast was clear’ we would run to the front door, hang the basket on the door knob, ring the bell and scurry to hide…and wait…and watch.
The anticipation of waiting for the door to open was exciting. As the lady of the house opened the door she would look around for someone. Upon seeing no person, she would notice the basket of fresh blossoms, take them from the door, glance around once more and then retreat inside. The smiles on the recipient’s faces was worth every ounce of energy and time spent on creating these gifts.
The simple joy of blessing someone anonymously still warms my heart and brings a smile to my face, too. Mom knew something wonderful and chose to share it with her children: giving is far greater than receiving. And, for that eternal truth, I and my sisters are forever grateful. Thanks mom for teaching us how to give without expecting something in return, except for the satisfaction of ‘making someone’s day’ !
P.S. I posted a photo of Tulips because Lilacs haven’t bloomed yet. It’s not what is given that really matters as much as why and how the gift is offered.