For a year, we rented a small house in a tidy neighborhood. It was easy to walk the neighborhood and I knew the yards well. When April came, this one yard in particular became my favorite. The owner had the most beautiful garden of bearded, purple-blue irises. They are my favorite flower, because they remind me of my Mom. She had so many in our yard from the time I was a child. Just seeing those irises made my heart glad – from the days of closed bud, through the glory of full bloom, and even past their splendor. I loved those days of walks past that house.
Then I met the owner. Her name is Liz. She turned into her driveway one day when my daughter and I had been walking but were presently lingering in front of her house. I must have taken a hundred pictures of those irises during that growing season. Liz told me the story of how her dad was a botanist and he planted the irises years before. He and my mom would have liked each other, I’m sure.
Liz and I would only meet that one day. I told her we were preparing to move. We had bought a house (our house now) and we would be moving within a couple of weeks. I thanked her for the pure pleasure her garden of irises had brought me during that April and early May.
Then she did a quite remarkable thing. She said, “I’m planning to thin the beds alongside my house, so if you want them, they’re yours.” Of course, I wanted them! We exchanged phone numbers, and when the irises were past their season, she would call me, and I could come get them.
She didn’t forget me.
One Sunday, after we had moved, she called me and said they were ready for me. She had them dug up, separated from each other and gathered in garbage bags. I picked them up from the curb because she would be napping, she said on the phone.
My husband planted them in our yard, in a sunny spot. It’s been many years since we’ve had a garden, and we had little experience with irises. We weren’t sure what would happen come the next April…but we hoped they would thrive in our yard as they did in Liz’s.
As Spring lengthened this year, those irises woke from their winter sleep, in this very new place. The foliage was beautiful alone yet we weren’t sure blooms would develop. A few have, actually and I was waiting for the debut of those sentimental flowers. Yesterday evening, I was visiting a friend, and my phone signaled a text message. Dave sent me this photo:
The first of those irises bloomed in our yard! Almost a year had passed from the day I met Liz. Still, I called her to tell her the good news. She remembered me. I thanked her again for that generous gift she shared with me. Flowers from her yard. This stranger and friend. Today she was suffering from the allergies so common here in spring with the yellow pine pollen that settles everywhere. One day, we agreed, we will meet again.
What she did for me that day about a year ago was no small kindness. This stranger shared a bit of her life with me, and now that bit flourishes in my life…in my yard, and in my heart. The kindness of a stranger – so unexpected and so captivating. It’s one of the many kindnesses of strangers I’ve known in life across continents. It’s no small thing.
“If I look back at my life, the sweet small kindnesses of strangers are pivotal and really combine to help shape my world view – and they probably have no idea.” – Debra Smith
“There is no small act of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher