This morning when I stepped outside to get the newspaper, my eye caught a glimpse of yellow in our garden bed. “Ah,” I said as a smile spread over my face. “The daffodils are blooming!” I love daffodils and look forward to seeing them each spring. In fact, for several years now I’ve been keeping track of my first daffodil sighting. In 2005, when I lived in Richmond, they were blooming on May 1. It’s easy to remember because I was in a car accident that day, and the daffodils welcomed me home when I returned from the hospital. The following year they bloomed a few days earlier, in April, and this year I saw my first daffodils on March 21. Why do I like them so much? Such simple flowers, they remind me of sunshine, of the bed of flowers outside my mother’s kitchen window on the farm, and of the bouquets I used to carry to my teachers at the Wharton Elementary School.
When I took a closer look at the splotch of yellow in front of my house, I realized that someone had left a potted plant there earlier this morning. It had to be my neighbor across the street, one of the most thoughtful and cheerful women I know. She has a knack for spreading sunshine throughout our neighborhood. Sometimes she comes bearing fresh fruit, another time she left a single flower in a vase on our front porch, and last winter she gave us a lacy white crocheted snowflake to hang in our window…small gestures that spread sunshine throughout the neighborhood.
Yesterday’s mail also brought a ray of sunshine, a handwritten note from friends in Florida. I have loved getting mail (not bills, but real letters) ever since I was a young girl. Back then there were magazines for teens that helped you connect with pen pals. At first I wrote to people in the U.S. or in English-speaking countries, but then my letters branched out to places like Germany and France. Letters transported this farm girl across space and time as I dreamed of traveling the world and studying the history of these places.
There is no denying that the Internet has had a negative impact on letter writing. While at a art festival in Naples, Florida, earlier this year I set out to purchase note cards. One of the vendors told me that he used to sell a lot of them, but customers seldom ask for them now. Well, I don’t care! Some of us are going to continue sending cards and letters because they brighten people’s days. And there is joy to be found in selecting just the right card for someone, holding your pen over the page, and musing about which sentiments you wish to express. I am much more likely to write from the heart when I write a letter than when I’m sending an email. It feels freer, less censored.
Finally, this morning’s paper contained a letter to Dear Abby with a quote that I want to share. The letter was from a husband who wanted his children to avoid certain topics when talking to their mother, who had stage 4 breast cancer. He wanted to protect her from feeling sad that she would miss their graduations, and weddings, and other milestones. Abby replied that it is important to allow people to feel everything, even sadness. How often have we tried to cheer up someone who is down in the dumps, when all they need to do is share their feelings with us? To quote from the column, “A joy shared is twice a joy, and a burden shared is half a burden.”
A simple precept, but true.