The Daffodil Principle

20 August 2020

By the Revd Preb Julian Ould,

At the beginning of March I retired from full-time ministry. I was lucky or fortunate enough to have been able to enjoy my final service, move house and unpack before the lockdown and have been counting my blessings ever since. However, the lockdown at best has been a strange period of enforced isolation and sadly for some a time of extreme trauma. Many have suffered the dreaded COVID-19, lots have died and we are told this is not going to go away any time soon. The wearing of masks, along with other precautions are here to stay, which is a fairly depressing thought. I am told this virus will change the world for ever and that we will not return to what was considered normal. Having lived in Totnes I am not quite sure what normal is, but things have changed.

Gradually the lockdown is being lifted and the evidence in the Southwest is that everyone is taking a holiday. The roads are clogged and there are real fears we will see a resurgence of the virus. Add this to a struggling global economy, the ongoing horrors of war, of conflict and hatred, of a world that is so torn it is all so depressing and yet what can I do about it, what can any of us do?

As I sat to write this ‘Holy Thought,’ I got this far and then decided to think for a bit, and whilst doing this check my emails. Amidst the usual work-related messages, a friend had sent me the following which almost miraculously seemed to come as a response to my ponderings:

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 20 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 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 butter yellow. Each different-coloured 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 40 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 35 or 40 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 today,” 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.
There is no better time than right now to be happy.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

I have no idea where this story comes from, or whether it was written by a Christian. Certainly, it meets the call of Christ in the way we should live, and speaks volumes about how we can face up to the current challenges of our world. To be honest, its source is unimportant, but what it is suggesting is important. So, let us all start afresh and in our own various ways seek to put the Daffodil Principle into practice. And whilst not solving all the problems of our world, certainly make a positive contribution.

With every blessing,

Julian

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