When a stranger planted spring in my heart

It was one of those days when Spring just burst forth in all five of my senses.

Sight:  The sky turned brilliantly blue, dotted with fluffy pillows of clouds.  Trees, which once stood stark and bare, blossomed profusely.  Outside surroundings revealed overwhelming evidence of color’s rebirth in hues of green, pink, yellow, purple, and red.

Hearing: When you stepped outside, a symphony of song birds’ musical masterpieces greeted your ears.  Folks ventured outdoors chatting happily with neighbors, lawn mowers buzzed, and the sound of children’s laughter while playing reverberated through the air.

Touch:  You could feel the sun’s enveloping warmth kiss your upturned face while a gentle breeze caressed you and tickled your skin.

Smell:  As you inhaled, you caught the fragrant aroma of freshly mowed grass and the distinct flowery scents of blooming daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths.

Taste: The air seemed so clean and so clear after a long winter’s season spent mostly indoors, that when you opened your mouth to gulp in the fresh air, you could literally taste spring.

It was a spring day like so many others before and so many more to come.  But driving through my hometown after work the other day, my sense of spring transported me back into time…to a similar spring day over 40 years ago.

My hometown sits nestled among hills alongside a rolling river, which meanders its way to our nearest city where it joins another river and forms yet another.  For as long as I can remember, a riverfront park, complete with friendly park benches to perch on, lovely trees to offer shade, and a sidewalk upon which to stroll has existed in my little town.

A number of years ago, the park received a major renovation.  Quaint gazebos and small pavilions were added and an amphitheater was erected with seats looking out to the flowing water.  Concerts and other events are held here and it truly is a lovely park.

One of the main streets of our town, aptly named Water Street, runs parallel to the park and serves as a divider between it and store fronts and houses.  Driving along that street on my way out of town, I headed to the old-fashioned bridge which spans the river.  I welcomed the sun’s balmy light as it radiated through the windshield warming my face while cool air rushed in from my open car window.

Trees in the park, boasting their blooms, waved their white and pink robes of color in the light breeze.  And that’s when I caught a whiff of that irresistible and comforting aroma – freshly cut grass. I glanced at the park and spied municipal workers seated on lawn tractors accomplishing that first cutting of the season.

Immediately, the memory of another spring day literally jumped into my thoughts and provided yet another lofty lift in my spirit.

I was just a teenage girl attending junior high school.  Laden down with the drama of such days, fretting over friends and prospective boyfriends (or at least one boy I wished was my boyfriend), a stack of textbooks weighing down my arms (we didn’t have backpacks), and the weariness of a school day finally over, I trudged outside the school building and down the steps at day’s end.  I’m certain my head was down, my shoulders drooped, and my heart sank in some kind of misery.

I heard a familiar voice call my name loudly and looked up.  My two older, married sisters waited in my brother-in-law’s pickup truck parked at the curb behind the line of school buses.  They were downtown on errands and finding themselves nearby as school dismissed, they decided to offer me a ride home.

Ordinarily, getting home without riding the school bus would have made me happy.   But that day, something troubled me.  No doubt, it must have been trifling because for the life of me, I don’t recall what rendered me unhappy or upset.

I’m not sure if I did poorly on a test, I was angry at someone, or I just had a really bad day at school, or it was just the moodiness of puberty, but I felt down in the dumps.  Obviously, some kind of teenage angst had me in its grasp.

My oldest sister slid over from the passenger seat, making room for me to climb in, so I occupied the seat by the open truck window.  The day was beautiful. Warm. Sunny. Flowers gaily nodded their heads each time the wind blew a little breath.   But I didn’t seem to notice, too preoccupied with my gloomy disposition.

We drove down Water Street beside the riverfront park.   Trees lined the park in a profusion of budding blooms and the scent of mowed grass wafted through the air.  But I didn’t really notice.

The traffic signal at the bridge turned red and we paused in a long line of cars waiting for our turn to cross the bridge and leave town behind.  Sitting in that truck on a glorious spring day, I must have appeared glum, forlorn, and melancholy.  Suddenly, a young man stood beside my open window, saying to me, “Here, this is for you!”

Startled, I incredulously looked at this guy holding a twig loaded with flowering tree buds out to me.  He wasn’t someone I knew.  He wasn’t from my school.  He was older than me, but not one of the high school guys either.  He must have been a college student attending the state university’s branch campus in my hometown probably just relishing fresh air and a splendid spring day while strolling through the park.

And he presented a sprig of spring to me, a complete stranger – a scrawny 14-year-old girl who wasn’t happy with her life at that moment.  He must have recognized that winter still lurked in my heart and mind when he offered that blooming branch to me.  I reached out and accepted his gift, managed to mumble a surprised thank you as the light changed, and we drove onward.

I stared at the pink blossoms in my hand, wondered what just happened, and smiled happily all the way home.  My sisters had plenty of questions.  Does that guy like you?  Who was that?  Do you know him?  Why do you think he gave that to you? Are you sure you’ve never seen him before?

I did not have any answers.  But I have never forgotten that day.  The way the sunshine warmed my face.  The way cool air blew my hair into my eyes.  The way the park looked so inviting with flowering trees and sun glistening on the water.  The scent of grass and delicate blooms.  The kind and thoughtful gift granted to me brightening that particular moment in time.   The feel of that small tree branch in my hand.  And the joy that flooded my soul due to the random act of one kindhearted stranger.

I kept that little branch in my room until the blossoms dried up and fell off the twig.  I never saw the college student again and eventually I forgot what he even looked like.  But I have never forgotten the feeling he gave me that day.  And I don’t believe I ever will.

I moved back to my homeland almost 14 years ago, and every spring since then, I remember this caring gesture from long ago when I drive through my little town, along the river, by the park with those blossoming trees.

Yes, today in my book called Opportunity, I pleasantly recall that balmy day so many years ago when a thoughtful young college boy caused a smile to spread across my face and my heart to sing when he bestowed a special gift upon me – the gift of paying attention to spring, a gift of hope and joy and rejuvenation.

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~Harriet Ann Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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25 responses

  1. I think spring is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. There is nothing that brings such joy to my heart than seeing the signs of new life all around you. It is like God is taking his paintbrush over his canvas of earth from the barren winter and each day gives us a new beauty and fragrance to enjoy. It always amazes me how overnight a barren tree or bush or flower is tranformed in to a thing of beauty. And I guess that is how God wants us to live our lives also. To be constantly tranformed by His love, His works in our lives and by His word so that His beauty can be seen in us and that we can let our lives shine before men and to always remind us of the new life he has granted us by the resurrection of HIs Son. Spring is a glorious time of year and I appreciated your story also. It’s good to be reminded how those simple acts of kindness can mean the world to a person and might make a change in their lives also. Thanks for sharing

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    • Lori, you put it so beautifully when you said “God is taking his paintbrush over his canvas of earth.” So very true! I don’t know how people can look at the beauty of the earth as it transforms from winter to spring and deny the existence of God. And yes, the beauty of Jesus should shine through us at all times of the year. But spring is special as it puts ‘spring’ in our step and reminds us of our Savior’s ultimate gift! Thank you for reading and leaving such a special comment! 🙂

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    • I know! I think that’s the neatest thing. One small little act we may do can change a person’s outlook so dramatically and we may never know (at least in this world) what impact we had. It reminds me to smile at a stranger and do kind deeds and be God’s hands and feet.

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  2. Why are you here? Don’t you have a wedding happening any day now? You are one even- keeled woman to keep on as usual, praising the opportunities. Such an even rhythm you exude.

    btw Coincidence: As we prepare for the summer Olympics in London, I will at a later date as we get closer to the games, share an amazingly similar experience, my welcome to London back in the day.

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  3. Oh, what a grand story! And so true that something as small as a branch of flowers from a stranger cam remain in your memory and in your heart for years to come. Your post makes me ask myself, “What can I do to make someone feel special?”

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    • Dor, I was going to share this post with you, as I thought you’d just love it. But I see you are already here in the comments! And in turn, I was going to link your post on the pink blossoms here: http://notesfromtheblogusfear.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/razzle-dazzle-redbud/ as the two seemed to go hand in hand. Both you, and Mama’s E.N. are taking the time to appreciate the beauty of life around us. Such a joy to read.

      Mama’s E.N., this was a stunningly beautiful piece. So calm, I felt as if I was riding along with you, back in that truck, with the wind blowing my hair, and the angst of youth all over me. We all have days like that. And to think the singular act of that man, to share the flowers with you, made such an impression? Wow. The power of kindess. This line was amazing, “He must have recognized that winter still lurked in my heart and mind when he offered that blooming branch to me.” Would that we all could just “see” each other.

      You’ve inspired me, both of you wonderful women.

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      • Melissa, you always find just the right words to encourage me! Thank you! I’m so blessed to see how my readers have responded to this post. It truly is about “seeing” each other and responding in encouragement and understanding. And…[chuckle,chuckle], of course, Dor and I are taking the “time to appreciate the beauty of life around us,” that’s what we DO when we’re in the empty nest! 😀

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  4. I love this story and your description of the teenage angst and how all encompassing it can be. Having a teenage daughter brings it all back for me! Such a beautiful random act of bringing you the branch of flowers and it was just for you! Amazing memories. Thank you for sharing and like Dor, it makes me want to do someone special for someone else as well.

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    • Oh, yes, teenage angst — to them it seems like the end of the world. Hope you manage to keep your sanity through it all with your daughter. 😉 Seriously, I’m pleased you enjoyed my little story and if it prompts us to just take an extra minute to do a small kindness for another, that is amazing.

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  5. That is really an awesome story. You never know what the littlest thing you do might mean to someone. 30 seonds of his time affected you forever. Isn’t that amazing? Course, the same goes for bad things. 30 seconds of abusiveness also lasts forever. Something to think about isn’t it?

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  6. Oh wow! You simply captured the words I wanted to write about something that happened just recently {last Friday} that was something like this. A stranger also planted and breathed new hope into my weary soul. I was so amazed when I checked your blog and read this post! It’s a beautiful God-treat for this week!

    A beautiful post, Ma’am!:)

    P.S. – I’d like to retweet the quote you included in the last part. 🙂 Thanks!

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    • It’s just like our gracious Lord to bless us in a meaningful way. It makes my heart glad that you received a little ‘God-treat’ from my post and that stranger. Now you need to share your story with me, Yen! Thank you so much for commenting. 🙂

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