Kicking a stone off the dirt path, Dayyon carelessly slogged through the park behind his neighbourhood. They told him this would be an opportunity to change the world, his contribution to the great narrative of human history, a record of his selfless devotion to the Cause of Baha’u’llah. Right.
They almost had me convinced. Junior youth don’t want to contribute, they’re not curious; they’re just annoying and inattentive. Such a waste of my time.
As Dayyon continued to mumble angrily to himself, he noticed Mrs. Jackson – an elderly Baha’i in his neighbourhood – tending her roses. Mrs. Jackson’s large rimmed sun-hat barely shaded her round plump body, but she danced around her garden with the grace of a ballerina.
“Hello sweetheart” Mrs. Jackson lovingly sang out.
Dayyon was in no mood for conversation, but Mrs. Jackson was different. Speaking to her was always right – like ice cream.
“Hi Mrs. Jackon.”
Mrs. Jackson immediately noticed that something wasn’t right. She placed down her shears, pealed off her gloves, and walked down to Dayyon. Smiling, she took his hands and said, “I’d love you to join me for some tea and brownies. Just baked them myself.”
Inside Mrs. Jackson’s home was just like the outside: Full of plants and flowers. Dayyon didn’t know much about these things, but the plants in Mrs. Jackson’s home looked really happy, just as happy as the ones outside.
“Here you are dear, give it a minute to color.” She placed a small glass tea-pot in front of him accompanied by a lush brownie.
“Thank you Mrs. Jackson.”
She took a bite of her brownie, her eyes fixed on Dayyon.
“I hear you’re with the youth up in Richlin Park. Wonderful service you’re all doin’ there for the children. Just wonderful.”
Dayyon took in a deep breath. He felt shame and anger at the same time, first at Mrs. Jackson and then at the kids. But this made him feel even worse, so he decided to hate himself instead. Mrs. Jackson could see it all happening. Dayyon went silent, his brow furrowed.
“Drink your tea dear, it’s ready for you.”
Dayyon took a sip.
“They won’t listen to me.” He stared into the red liquid. “They don’t understand anything. They talk when I’m talking, they laugh when I’m trying to be serious, and they run around when it’s time to sit! How are we supposed to build a community with these little brats? I feel like a babysitter!” Dayyon became more animated as he spoke; waving his hands around like a conductor.
“This isn’t going anywhere, Mrs. Jackson. Most of them aren’t ready and the rest have missed the boat. I can’t get them to do anything right because they’re all rotten at the core. We’re wasting our time.”
Mrs. Jackson looked seriously at Dayyon as she sipped on her tea. When he finished, she lay back while resting her hands on the armrests of her chair, and closed her eyes. For a moment, Dayyon thought she had fallen asleep, but then she began to speak.
“You know, years ago, before you’re family moved to this place, there was this man who lived down the road. Proper type, ya know, would garden with a suit on and leather boots. Well, dedicated he was, and day-in-day-out he would come home from work and spend hours in his garden. But I never understood his ways, seemed like he was tryin’ too hard, you see. For example, he’d buy these bushy crooked trees and a whole bunch of wire and would spend day after day wrapping that wire and pruning branches. So I asked him ‘what you doin’ with that tree?’ He’d say, ‘I want it to grow straight and tall, and that’s what it’ll do.”
Mrs. Jackson stood up and went to the kitchen; she brought back another brownie for Dayyon as he took his last bite. He was glad he didn’t have to ask.
“Okay. I thought to myself ‘might be like those Japanese bonzai,’ so I left him at it. Now, I should have just minded my own business, but after a while, well, I just had to laugh. He was doin’ all kinds of odd stuff. He had just a few wildflowers growin’ in his lawn and he sprayed them all down with this orangey wash. Then his grass started goin’ yellow so he went out and bought grass seed and poured it all over top. He’d put shady plants in the sun, and sun-lovin’ plants in the shade. He put out sprinklers that watered all the plants three times a day like he was feedin’ them breakfast, lunch, and supper.”
Mrs. Jackson started to giggle as she trickled a little water on a plant in her kitchen.
“Anyhow, I thought he was hasty, but lo and behold his garden grew. Not as beautiful as it should, but there you have it. Grew quicker than mine even!”
She stopped and sat back down in her chair looking at Dayyon.
“That’s it?” Dayyon was clearly puzzled, “no offence, but what was the point of that, Mrs. Jackson?”
She smiled victoriously, “what makes you think I’m trying to make a point, mister? Honestly. Young people today always looking for a point. Just enjoy the damn story, would ya?”
With a surprised look on his face, Dayyon sat awkwardly waiting for his host to continue. She indulged in another bite of brownie and slowly chewed while, again, lying back in her chair. After a long pause she said, “Well, he moved.”
“He moved where?” Dayyon asked.
“How should I know? Fact is, he moved, and the people who bought his house tried their best to keep his garden, but it wasn’t possible. Without the orange wash the wildflowers started pushin’ between the grasses. Little shoots started growin’ off every inch of his trees, and most of his flowers died.”
Mrs. Jackson stood from her chair and walked towards her front door, Dayyon followed. Outside, she beckoned him to a little stone patio at the center of her garden. They stood there together and Dayyon marveled at the rich beauty around him.
“You see dear, I don’t have to spend much time with these darling plants. Heck, they know what to do better than I would. They’ve been around much longer than me, and there’s a plan for them, you know. All I do is come out here and give them some help when it’s needed. Sometimes, they get too excited so they get all tangled up, so I come over and do a little prunin’ and cleaning – just to give them the room they need to do their thing. More importantly, I have to get to know them. They each have names, personalities, needs, limits, and capacities. I take my time trying to understand these things so that I can give them each the attention that’s right for them. Now, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy at first. Some would grow too fast and I’d have to find bigger pots before I was ready. Others would grow too slow and I’d thought they’d gone rotten, almost threw them out too. But I’d say to myself ‘now don’t be hasty.’”
They walked over to the rose bushes that Mrs. Jackson was working on that afternoon. For the first time Dayyon noticed how alive and full of color these bushes were. Not like the ones in front of the supermarket parking lot. These ones were full of fragrant roses.
“But once they got goin’, well, there was no stoppin’ them. Now look at all they do for us.”
Mrs. Jackon put on her gloves and, again, started tending to her flowers. Dayyon realized that she barely meddled with them. Instead, she seemed to just…accompany.