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March 22, 2004 - "Caring for Spring" by Sue Monk Kidd
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"Caring for Spring"
by Sue Monk Kidd

One day when the world was full of spring, my husband and I were traveling through the poorer section of a large city. Cracker-box houses were wedged among the tenements and billboards. There was little birdsong, few trees. Mostly it was a concrete world.

It seemed spring had forgotten to come here. I rode along with a strange restlessness beginning to stir in me, with a bit of sadness seeping into the car. Dogs without collars. Dirt without grass. Children without butterflies. It seemed a paradise lost.

At a stop sign, we paused before yet another dilapidated old house, scraped by the years of all its paint. But that's not what grasped my attention. There across the front of it was a window box with newborn red flowers peeping over the side. Tulips, I believe. An old woman was watering them from a tin can. She appeared to be unaware of all the concrete, of the sadness that seemed to be coming through its cracks.

Suddenly, as I watched her, she did something so lovely, so breathtaking, I can see it still. She reached down and patted the soil around her flowers as a mother pats a sleeping child. Then she bent her face close to them and rubbed a petal against her cheek. And for an instant I was sure I saw God in her face.

As we pulled away from the old woman watering red flowers on a gray street, I promised myself I would not forget her nor the truth she brought to me that day?that something deep in all of us yearns for God's beauty and we can find it no matter where we are.

Leaving the city behind us, I wondered if maybe I hadn't stumbled upon one of God's subtle challenges?that of searching for beauty in homely things, for spring in barrenness, and for a spark of happiness in sorrow. Maybe whenever a child picks a dandelion, or a person leans on his hospital window before a sunrise, or an old woman grows flowers in a slum, they are all meeting this challenge whether they realize it or not. For God has placed a fragile searching quality in each of us, a quality so easily lost.

I would like to go back and thank the old woman. Without knowing it, she told me that if I look for beauty in unexpected places, I shall surely find it. God's window boxes are everywhere

Sue Monk Kidd copyright 1983


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