Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Charming Gardeners

My husband and I had the privilege of breakfasting the other day with five complete strangers- the couple who ran the bed and breakfast where we stayed while celebrating our anniversary, and three other guests--siblings on a road trip together-- who were also staying there on Friday.

As we all sat there together, I began to wonder for the first time in a long time what it is that makes a person stand out as a Christian. It's sort of a summer camp or Sunday school kind of question, but I find it to be very relevant to my life these days. I spend so much time being angry with this ex or that ex-- my husband and I are both divorced, each with a child from our respective failed marriages, and there doesn't have to be any particular drama happening for this reality to cause frustration. I wonder if there's any of my spheres of influence in which people think of me and wonder what makes me different, what gives me such joy, why and how it is that I am so peaceful.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I powered down my laptop today *gasp* and pulled off the stickers that I and my children had strewn across the face of the keyboard and the screen border. They were getting pretty nasty. I cleaned the computer as best I could, though the surface will never really be white again. Of course being the right brained person that I am, I immediately went through the house to find something to replace those stickers.

To be honest, I wasn't looking for *something*. I was looking for a very *specific* something. A Marcel Proust quote from a friend I used to work with, which runs thus:

"Be grateful to those people that make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom."

Oh, and another piece of paper, upon which is scribbled, "I am not a chicken." I found both, and the finding reminded me of my last full-time, real-world job (not counting bus driving), and of the man--I'll call him M-- who had left those slips of paper on my desk more than 2 years ago.

I hated that job. It would have been a very meaningful workplace if it had not been for the constant, morale-killing politics in my department. But M was always kind, and he rarely had a negative thing to say about anyone. He was constantly reading during his breaks, and having learned that I was both an avid reader and a writer of poetry, he would come and share wonderful passages from whatever it was that he was reading on any given day. He introduced me to Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy (a FABULOUS read), and to a book titled Mother of Pearl, which he gave to me on the condition that I let him know what I thought of it when I had finished it, which I haven't yet (sorry M). M made that job bearable, and even, at times, enjoyable.

Back to the idea that found its root in the conversation with my fellow bed and breakfasters-- what makes a person stand out these days, in this time, in this culture? What makes a person different? I'm still not quite sure, but I know that I was only in contact with M for a few minutes per day during the week for about 9 months, but when I think of him, I realize I miss him. I enjoyed his company. He made me feel heard and honored and human. His peace and gentility were contagious. In spite of the brevity of our friendship, and the time that now separates me from my experience of him, he remains firmly established among my charming gardeners, and I am so very grateful to him.

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George MacDonald

"Home is ever so far away in the palm of your hand, and how to get there it is of no use to tell you. But you will get there; you must get there; you have to get there. Everybody who is not at home, has to go home."

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