Evelyn R. Smith: An ethereal bouquet of flowers brightens my day
Boston, Sandyhook, and a myriad of others like them. It is too much and sleep is fitful each night. When I stir, my husband -- only half-awake himself, will reach for me and pull me close. I snuggle in, but restful sleep will not come. So, this morning I slipped out of bed. What will this day be like? I wonder.
Unknown to me at this early hour, seven thousand miles away on the other side of the world, the sun is low in the sky. My long-time Japanese friend Katsu has just finished photographing flowers in the exquisite garden his wife designed. He then uploaded them to his computer, addressed an email to me, and clicked, "Send."
I first met Katsu in the "Letters to the Editor" section of the Charleston Gazette in 1947. Japan, at that time, was under the occupational forces of Gen. MacArthur, and an American soldier had given him a copy of the Gazette. In broken but understandable English, his letter asked for an American pen pal, so he could learn about our American ways. (He later said that I was the only one who answered his plea.) Over the seventy years since, we've kept in contact as we've each married, and as he has had children and grandchildren. Katsu and I have spent our lives in two entirely different worlds with two different languages and customs, yet we are like brother and sister.
Still sleepy-eyed, I opened my email box. Katsu, whose own country is still struggling to recover from a disastrous tsunami, had sent me flowers! Photos of breathtakingly beautiful blooms opened one by one on my desktop. I gasped in delight as I savored each blossom he had sent. What a lovely way to begin my day . . .
Along with the flowers was a note: "Evelyn, in these later years there has not been any good news in the world. The Western and Eastern Worlds are full of very sad, depressing, evil and offensive incidents of daily life. Apart from the bad news, I am sending you some photographs of blooms in our small garden."
I am overwhelmed at my friend's gracious and kind thoughts. In response to the hatred and destruction caused by evil men around us, Katsu had chosen to add an act of kindness; and my day is brightened by flowers from the other side of our mixed up world.
Not wanting to spoil the joy brought by the gift of flowers, I did not open the newspaper. Instead, I picked up my Bible and re-read portions from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. With new insight, they seemed to describe the events of our day. Our Lord warned us of what will come when we turn from the love of God to love of ourselves and our own lusts. "You will hear of wars, and rumors of wars . . . nation will rise against nation . . . famines and diseases will spread . . . and earthquakes will occur in different places. There will be fearful signs from the heavens . . . signs from the sun and the moon and the stars . . . distress of the nations . . . the sea and the waves roaring. Men's hearts shall fail them from fear, for the powers of heaven will be shaken."
Just as Katsu said in his email, the Scriptures warn of "sad, depressing, evil and offensive incidents" that are to come. Are they already upon us?
Luke's comment, "Men's hearts shall fail them with fear," is interesting. Evidence of this is all around us. We are afraid to walk the streets at night, so we stay in our homes, with the doors locked and the security system in place. We travel with car windows rolled up and doors locked. We are afraid of strangers. We are afraid of our own shadows. We live in fear!
Yet, even in the face of more worldwide calamities to come, our Lord offers hope. In Luke 21:28, He says, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."
Instead of walking around with heads down in despair, we should raise our heads and look up. As our redemption draws near, we are told to look around and help those who are victims of nature gone wild and violence from those who prey upon us.
A few of hundreds of Scripture verses come to mind.
Acts 20:35, "In all things I have shown you that . . . we must help the weak. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Galations 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
And, the most powerful one is found in Matthew 25-40. "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"
Eva Rose Parks observed, "I shall not pass this way again: Then let me now Relieve some pain, Remove some barrier from the road, Or brighten some one's heavy load."
My friend Katsu did just that. I shall take another walk through his garden and stop and smell the flowers.
Smith is a writer who lives at Edgewood Summit.