Monday, February 19, 2007

The Power of One

By now just about everyone has received an email that ended with these three lines:

Work like you don't need money.
Love like you've never been hurt,

Dance like no one's watching.

Sure, it's good advice even if it's pretty hard to follow. But did you know that those lines are actually part of a larger story? This one showed up in my email inbox the other day, and reminded me of the power of one person to change not only their immediate surroundings but also the lives of people they've never met. So as Paul Harvey would say, here's The Rest of the Story.

The Daffodil Principle

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say,
"Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over."

I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive. "I will come next Tuesday," I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.

The next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and reluctantly
I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children. I delightedly hugged and greeted my grandchildren.

"Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in these clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her.

"But first we're going to see the daffodils. It's just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this."

" Carolyn," I said sternly, "Please turn around."

"It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read, "Daffodil Garden." We got out of the car, each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, as we turned a corner, Ilooked up and gasped.

It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, and saffron and buttery yellow. Each different colored variety was planted a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

"Who did this?" I asked Carolyn. "Just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives there." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house.

On the porch was a poster:

Answers to the questions I know you are asking

  1. 50,000 bulbs
  2. One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, one brain.
  3. Began in 1958

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman who, almost fifty years before, had begun to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.

That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time - often just one baby-step at time - and learning to love the doing, learning to use the compounding of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we can change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years? Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"
My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said. She was right. It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Use the Daffodil Principle.

Stop waiting.....
Until your car or home is paid off
Until you get a new car or home
Until your kids leave the house
Until you go back to school
Until you finish school
Until you clean the house
Until you organize the garage
Until you clean off your desk
Until you lose 10 lbs.
Until you gain 10 lbs.
Until you get married
Until you get a divorce
Until you have kids
Until the kids go to school!
Until you retire
Until summer

Until spring
Until winter
Until fall
Until you die...

There is no better time than right now to be happy.
So work like you don't need money.
Love like you've never been hurt, and,

Dance like no one's watching.

Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.


At 10:10 AM, Blogger Jay Burnham said...

Nicely put Margaret,

Loved ready this blog posting!

Your friend,



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