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 from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead “I will come next Tuesday”, I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.
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.
“I was hoping you’d take me over to the garage to pick up my car.” “How far will we have to drive?””Oh…just a few blocks,” Carolyn said. “But I’ll drive. I’m used to this.”
After several minutes, I had to ask, “Where are we going? This isn’t the way to the garage!” “We’re going to my garage the long way,” Carolyn smiled, “by way of the daffodils.”
“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, I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and it’s 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 butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted in large groups 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 on the property. That’s her home.” 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 patio, we saw a poster. “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking” was the headline.
The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs,” it read. The second answer was, “One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain.” The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”
For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, 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 accumulation of time.
When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. 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?”
There are some very specific lines in this story that now pop into my head when I get discouraged or frustrated:
“When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.”
“One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain.”
Margeret Mead said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
One at a time by one person. One group. One body of like-minded people. One shared vision or goal to a specific end.
We can continue to make excuses, or we can each take action in our own way. We can wait, hoping to find others who share our vision, fearing that we won’t succeed, that others might not understand or agree with us, or we can begin – one step at a time – to turn our vision into reality and, in so doing, lead by example.
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 you die….