The fields have been awash with white wildflowers this spring.
Delicate petals, floating on tall stems – like sprigs of kindness pointing to love in the middle of untamed land.
At least, that's how I've imagined them.
Sometimes I get overly poetic. I am aware of this.
Up close, I discovered that there are two kinds of nearly-identical flowers, and both are awe-inspiring in their lacy beauty.
There's this one:
I guess the reason I thought of these as "kindness flowers" is that I've been in a spot where I've had to choose to be kind in my interactions with a (sometimes) difficult person in my life. Seeing these petals somehow reminded me of how important my words and actions are. With their gentle dances in the breeze, they seemed to point me in the right direction.
The other day, I did what I thought was a kind thing. I gave something that I'd worked hard for to this friend, and in the moment I was happy to do it.
It felt like a caring gesture, because I do love this person.
And I should have just left it alone. I should have given the gift, enjoyed the love, and moved on.
But I didn't.
After I'd given it, I just had to make a small comment. A teeny one. Probably to make sure the friend fully appreciated the gift.
And you know, right then I felt quite satisfied in saying it.
I mean, it was just a comment–nothing harsh–said in the mildest tone.
But if I'm really honest, it was meant to rub... just a little.
And I'm sure it did.
As soon as the words were out, my self-satisfaction didn't feel so good. Immediately I wished I could retract them.
But of course, I couldn't. The damage was done. I could see it in her face.
For my friend, the once-kind gift now had a bitter aftertaste.
I pictured my silly "kindness flowers" out there in that overgrown field. How beautiful they were, how they made that old pasture feel magical and lovely and special, if only for a fleeting season.
And suddenly, I realized that the two types of flowers were much like kindness after all, and not just in my mind. You see, in bloom, the two are almost impossible to tell apart. Both have clusters of heart-shaped petals with creamy centers. Both have many sprays of blooms on each stem.
Both are spectacular.
It's as the flowers fade, that the difference becomes clear.
Each one leaves something unique behind.
One kind leaves tiny little green flower hips - like miniature pomegranates on each stem. They are delicate and fresh and nourishing, and I've watched as small brown birds come along to eat them like delicious candies.
The other flower, in contrast, leaves behind burrs.
The burrs start out soft, even a little pretty, but they quickly dry on the stems and then tenaciously cling to your clothing as you pass by. It's almost like they jump onto you, and then somehow find their way into socks and seams - to irritate your skin long afterward.
Feeling a "kindness-burr" in an underwear seam, even after it's been through the laundry, makes you forget how lovely the flowers once were.
All you can think of is the prickly rub.
And it makes you distrust all little white flowers, even the ones without the burrs. They all look so similar, you can't tell which ones will hurt you.
Today, I'm reminded once again of the need for kindness–for love and for tenderness.... without burrs. Particularly in the wake of the terrible Orlando shootings.
I just keep thinking: we can take this moment to love better, can't we? Words and acts of kindness, especially now, are not tickets to preach, politicize or scold. Because when we do that, after the bloom fades, all that will be left is the prickly rub. A bitter aftertaste.
Oh, I wish we could let love bloom for those who are hurting, for those who are grieving, and for those who are ostracized. I'd love for our kindness to leave seeds that nourish and strengthen, that build and restore.
We need it so much.
Let kindness heal, without any disclaimers or qualifiers.
Kindness without burrs is kindness that doesn't keep score. Imagine how it could change our marriages, our friendships, our communities, even our enemies...if we were simply nice to one another? Often we are so consumed with making our point, or taking the credit, or seeking self-satisfaction, that whatever lovely thing we once had becomes an abrasive irritant that's hard to remove.
Real kindness, on the other hand, sets love in motion.
It nourishes the soul with a listening ear, with a warm embrace, and with an understanding smile.
It looks beyond differences and sees humanity, and dignity, and worth.
It refuses bigotry, and pursues what is beautiful.
It's candy for little brown birds, who simply happen upon it in an old pasture.
Kindness is how love speaks.
It's the language of love.
So let's be kind.
Sometimes, it's what the world needs more than anything.