Grace from a neighbor’s garden

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It was a few weeks ago that my neighbor across the street came up to me as I was outside with the boys.  “Do you like violas?”  she asked.  “Because we have a whole ton of them out back.  You can take as many as you want.”

It was obvious from the context that she was talking about the flower, not the instrument.  I told her that I liked them very much.   “Come on over and get some anytime you like,” she said.

About two weeks later, the boys and I followed her into the backyard, to the plot where her husband plants vegetables.  There, along by the fence, were hundreds of purple and yellow violas, a pansy’s petite sister.

I exclaimed at the number of flowers.  “You know, we didn’t even plant these,” my neighbor explained.  “They  came from somewhere and seeded themselves.  I hate to just pull them out.”  She had donated clumps of them to another neighbor, one whose front yard — like mine — was still in winter-bare mode.

She handed me a trowel and an aluminum roasting pan.  As the boys gleefully chased her small dog around the grass, I carefully dug around the flowers, lifting them out of the ground.   Dry brown dirt clung to the tiny roots; it crumbled like baking cocoa at my touch.  Soon the aluminum pan was full of blooms.

The boys and I took the flowers  across the street and, with our trowels, we immediately set to work planting them.  Other than a bit of weeding and some trimming back of old branches, it was the first garden work I’d done since winter, and it felt deliciously good to be back in the soil.   It was the perfect work for little boys to do, too: the flowers were free, and we knew they were tough, so I didn’t worry about my fellow gardeners’ ungentle enthusiasm.  Between the three of us, we made short work of the planting.  Soon the bare brown bed was dotted with violet and white and yellow.

As we worked, it occurred to me that this is what grace is like.  Grace tends to show up out of nowhere, like these little blossoms in my neighbor’s vegetable patch.   It seeds and grows without any effort on our part.

Once we recognize the grace, we have a choice of what to do with it.  Noticing and savoring it ourselves is important, and beautiful, and holy.  But there is something even holier about sharing it with others, about handing your neighbor an aluminum roasting pan and the trowel and inviting her to share in the blessing.  And when your neighbor is a mom with two small boys who gets to share a quiet lovely moment with those boys, digging in the dirt together, that moment is a kind of grace too.

And with those violas planted in the bed up front, the whole yard looks prettier.  That’s a grace for everyone who passes by on the sidewalk and glances at our yard, getting a glimpse of spring where before there was only winter.

Where have you seen grace lately?

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