I believe in “Little Flowers”. Not just any ordinary little ones, though. The objects of my belief represent very special acts of kindness. Jesus of Nazareth might have been referring to them when he said that there is little value in being kind just to the people one loves, and likewise it is never sensational if one is fair to or only helps one’s friends.
While I was raised a Catholic, I only ever attended secular public schools. However, my primary school teachers managed to disguise and implement a traditional Catholic routine – the “Little Flowers” – to teach an invaluable, universal life lesson, which I am dearly holding onto even today while struggling with Faith.
Every spring, each student’s name went on the blackboard and each of us had a month to edify oneself with an act of kindness and altruism. If and when one succeeded, she (no coed back then!) would earn the privilege of drawing a little flower next to her name. Then, that student was encouraged to choose from a picture book the type of flower that best represented her special act of kindness and was asked to decorate the board with it.
These flowers never bloomed from nor heeded any competition. No candies were given out either; I guess we were simply content to have been good, really good, against all odds and ourselves. That is how I felt anyhow. The reward and the challenge alike were discovering real goodness in one’s heart and remembering to water those little flowers often thereafter.
Earning the privilege to draw a flower was terribly difficult, but not impossible. Because sharing my succulent snack with my best friend who had forgotten hers was not a qualifier, this practice – at the very least – acquainted me with empathy. It suggested that I consider those children whom I really did not care for or had carefully avoided.
My favorite “Little Flower” is the one I drew because I had reached out to help a classmate with her homework. I had NOT so secretly labeled her “stupid”, therefore inferior to me; I really did not like her and she had very good reasons not to like me. At first, it seemed impossible to ignore my pride, but my will to help was sincere in the end, so, fortunately, she did not reject me. In getting to know her, I could glimpse at her struggle, her embarrassment and the pain of her solitude. Because I had defied the coldness of my heart, I chose to draw a “snow-drop”, the first flower to pierce the mountain snow. She and I never became best friends, but I was forgiven, and slowly we learned to accept our differences. I have been tending to that flower since.
My “Little Flowers” belief is still playing an important role in my life. Confronted with the unsympathetic superior, the hostile colleague or the absolute stranger whom, perhaps, I would otherwise “strangle” on the spot, I am mentally choosing and drawing little flowers instead!
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