This Morning I was heading into a mental health counseling office building when I noticed a splash of color on the drab gray sidewalk. A petunia plant was growing in the crack of the sidewalk just a few inches from my left shoe. As I exited the office, I sat on a bench along side of the sidewalk and watched others as they traversed the sidewalk. Most didn't notice the flower. They were oblivious, distracted, or just in a hurry. A few noticed it, but none stopped to appreciate its beauty.
I pondered on this flower. How had it avoided getting stepped on? Did it know the odds were against its survival?
The irony of the entire experience was many who walked on the sidewalk were either needing to be cheered up or helping others to be of good cheer. Yet they failed to see one small plant giving its all to beautify their walk. They missed seeing the beauty around them.
This reminded me of a classic research article from Princeton University published in 1973 in which seminary students were given an assignment to discuss the ramifications of the "Good Samaritan parable." All of the participants were asked to go across campus to discuss the parable. Unknown to the participants, they were divided into 3 groups. The first group was given plenty of time to travel to the next location. The second group was given less time to make the journey, and the third group was given very little time to travel the distance. On their way to their destination, each student encountered a man slumped in an alleyway to simulate a "real life Good Samaritan situation." 40% of all the students stopped to help, but only 10% of those who were hurried stopped to help.
The study showed that people who feel hurried tend to help others less. So this generates a series of new questions:
-If I want to help my fellow man, how can I reduce the feeling of being in a hurry?
-If I slow down, will I be able to accomplish all my tasks?
-Can I streamline anything?
-How can I see and share "all the beauty" around me?
-Finally, how many beautiful things have I missed today?
There is a wise old Spanish idiom which may shed light on a solution to these questions: "talk to me slowly, I'm in a hurry." In other words if I am feeling stressed or hurried, I may do well to slow down, breath, and look around. In the process I may see much more beauty in life around me which in turn enables me to help more. Like the Petunia flower in the sidewalk crack, I (and you) can add color and beauty to the otherwise dull and drab path of life.