On this blog page, author Mary C. Woolling posts an ongoing series of her essays showcasing the positives of life.

New essays are added often. You are cordially invited to become a regular reader. Also, please feel free to share this site with your family and friends via the “Tell a Friend” link, located in the right-hand column below.

Comments on Mary's essays are most welcome. Simply click on the “Post Comments” link appearing at the end of each essay, and share your thoughts.

If you'd like to contact Mary, you may do so at mary@herestolife.us

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Never

All my life, people have advised me “never say never.”

However, I know of a situation where the word “never” is never wrong: we never regret a kindness.

My late beloved companion, Frank, who was the epitome of kindness, once told me of an experience that clearly illustrates this fact.

When Frank was a teenager, he coached Little League. Frank loved children and was also extremely fond of sports, especially baseball. Working with youngsters within the world of baseball was therefore, as Frank put it, a “win-win” for him.

The little boys on Frank’s team admired their coach. Understandably so, for Frank was lots of fun. For example, as a faux exercise in balance and reflexes, he would have them spin around and around their bats and then quickly run to first base. The boys, delightfully giddy from this revolving action, would dissolve in dizziness and laughter.

Frank was also scrupulously fair in his dealings with the boys. He made it clear that the game was serious business and had rules that must be followed. Further, team members were expected to give their all; no half measures on the baseball field. “We play to win,” Frank would say. Accordingly, the boys rose to the occasion. In fact, they seemed to revel in the discipline and sustained effort Frank required of them. Little League became a popular and well-attended event in Frank’s neighborhood.

After practice, the boys would routinely bicycle over to Frank’s house, to spend even more time with their beloved coach. They’d hang out on the sidewalk and front yard, joke, laugh, and talk. They’d even ask for Frank’s advice on things that were worrying them. Frank would patiently listen to their tales and offer guidance where he could. Through his devoted interaction with the boys, he not only presented the rules of baseball but also lessons for life.

Living a few doors down from Frank was a little girl who had Down’s syndrome. Frank said she was a sweet child who longed to play with the other neighborhood children but sadly, because of her handicap, the kids excluded her. If she would ride her bike over to Frank’s when the baseball team members were visiting, the youngsters, evidently uncomfortable by her presence, would be up and away in no time, leaving the poor little girl behind and alone.

Tenderhearted Frank understood the situation. He took time to greet the child and make her feel comfortable, sitting down in the driveway and talking with her. Naturally, the little girl thought the world of Frank. As it turned out, whenever the boys were at Frank’s for a visit, she learned to watch and wait from her window. Just as soon as the boys would leave, she would hop on her bike and, with a big smile on her face, pedal over to see her good friend Frank.

I’m speculating that Frank, in his adult years, would have used this situation as a teachable moment for the boys, explaining to them about the differences in people and the need for tolerance and compassion. Even so, as it was, he acted with extraordinary empathy given that he, himself, was just a teenager, showing kindness to a little girl who had been ostracized.

Ultimately, Frank moved out of the area but, many years later, he returned to the old neighborhood. On a whim, he stopped by the little girl’s house. He was greeted at the door by her mother who, with tears in her eyes, informed Frank that her daughter had passed away. Then, the child’s mother reached out her arms and gave Frank a big hug, telling him that her daughter had always loved Frank. And she added that the little girl had never forgotten him or his kindness.

Never say never? I beg to differ. We never regret a kindness.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ode to the Dandelion

It is the familiar that usually eludes us in life. What is before our nose is what we see last.

-William C. Barrett, American philosopher/ educator (1913–1992)

This morning, the dandelions are at their peak in my backyard. The recent, unseasonably warm weather has brought out these annual visitors in all of their glory. The beauty of their brilliant yellow blossoms has magically transformed the green expanse of lawn into a royal blanket of gold.

Did you know that dandelions hail from the Aster or Sunflower family? And that, like the sunflower, dandelion flowers rotate toward the sky throughout the course of the day, following the sun’s rays?

The word “dandelion” comes from the French words “dent de lion,” meaning lion’s tooth, referring to the serrated edges of their individual leaves. Each dandelion bloom is actually comprised of a compact mass of tiny, individual, yellow florets.

The dandelion – a delightful little spot of cheer in our world. And yet, because of its omnipresence, most people take it for granted. They say it’s not worth much. In fact, it is regarded as a common weed and something that does not belong in the “better” yards. Most homeowners strive continuously to eradicate this little flower which blooms prolifically year after year all through our lawns, unless we have taken measures to prevent it. Dandelions also come up in all sorts of additional locations – cracks in parking lots or driveways, along the edges of steps and fences, and interspersed between desired growing things in our gardens.

American philosopher William Barrett pointed out, in his words printed above, that many things in life are overlooked, simply because they are always there in our day-to-day landscape. So familiar to us do these things become, we ultimately fail to “see” them at all. It’s a good practice periodically to open our eyes to what is right before us — things that are actually well worth noting and valuing.

Case in point is the familiar, ubiquitous dandelion – often unseen and definitely unappreciated. I believe we have been too hasty in our negative assessment of the dandelion, for this brave and mighty little plant never stops volunteering its charming presence, with no encouragement from us.

The dandy also possesses many other qualities that are actually quite dandy. The first dandelions of spring are recognized as succulent, tasty, early sprouts to be eaten raw or used in cooked dishes. Before modern nutritional science warned us of the harm of high fat diets, “dandelion greens,” wilted when sprinkled with hot bacon grease and served alongside rich mashed potatoes, was a popular delicacy. My late father often spoken of having enjoyed this dish as well as of helping his parents prepare dandelion wine from its flowers. Today, nutritionists tell us that dandelion soups and salads (sans the bacon grease!) provide us with a good source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, as well as vitamins B, C, and E.

Further, my father told me that the leaves and roots of the dandelion plant are sometimes considered as folk remedies used for medicinal purposes. It has even been reported that grounds from the root of the dandelion can be roasted for a type of coffee substitute. (This undoubtedly would have a ways to go to match my favorite latte, but still, not bad for a little weed from the backyard!)

Dandelions display exemplary durability, vitality, and resourcefulness. Near the end of their lives, their yellow blossoms transform into spheres of white parachutes/seeds, converting entire fields into misty white blankets. These little white puffs are then gently blown away by a slight breeze or breath, floating off to distant places, there to begin another generation of dandies.

So, here’s to the plucky dandelion, a hardy little plant which, in spite of unpopularity, ridicule, and even threats to its very existence, is ever true to its mission of thriving in our world while providing pretty little posies for us to enjoy.

Through it all, the faithful little dandelion blooms on . . . it has much to teach us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Just for Today

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

-Robert Frost (1874-1963)
American poet and playwright

“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday, and all is well,” my grandfather used to say. In his long lifetime, he’d learned that most of what we fret about never comes to pass. We waste so much time and wear ourselves out fearing the worst, instead of enjoying the present moment and trusting in God for the future. It behooves us all to keep in mind that we’re not in control; our loving Heavenly Father is. And to remember that, in any trouble we encounter, He is with us, ready and willing to lead us through. The trick is learning to let go and allow Him to do so.

The Reverend Robert H. Schuller, famous televangelist and pastor, once spoke of an experience he had that clearly illustrated the reward to be gained in letting go of worries. As I recall his story, one day while traveling, he found himself lugging two heavy suitcases through a huge airport, as he rushed to his departure gate. The distance to the gate was very long, and the time allowed for traversing it very short. On finally reaching the far-off gate and putting down the suitcases, he exclaimed to the agent, “Wow! What a relief! I didn’t realize how heavy my burden was until I set it down.” When we can set down our burdens, confidently leaving them in God’s hands, we, too, are rewarded with the welcome feeling of a huge weight lifted from our shoulders, a sweet release from our heavy load.

I’m a master worrier. I admit it, and I venture to say many of you, Dear Readers, worry, too. I stew about my problems and I pray about my problems, offering them up to God. But after completing my prayers, it seems, I often take back my concerns and worry some more. Sound familiar? The other day I was speaking with a friend about this ongoing challenge of mine. She offered this suggestion: “Mary, instead of you being a master of your worries, why not give your worries to the Master?”

Sound advice, with which the American poet Robert Frost would have undoubtedly agreed. In his A Prayer in Spring, printed above, Mr. Frost encouraged us not to project ourselves into that “uncertain harvest” of the future but instead to focus fully on today with all of its many pleasures, assured in the knowledge that God has every one of our tomorrows safely in His hands.

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” wrote the Psalmist. And what a glorious April day in which to be joyful and glad! The sources of happiness are all around us. Feel the warmth of the sunshine on your upturned face. Can you spy the emerging, tiny buds on the limbs of the trees? See the gently-opening petals of the beautiful flowers that have surfaced once again. Take a look at the grass underfoot. Overnight, as if by magic, it has suddenly turned to a lush, verdant green. Hush! Listen to the cheerful singing of the happy birds.

Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday, and all is well, for all is in God’s hands. Let us rejoice today and trust in Him for tomorrow!

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