I discovered Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith at our library lately. I think I should probably page through it every morning of my life as part of my prayer and reflection time.
The story is told without words through simple, appealing illustrations showing a father and his daughter on a walk. The father does normal adult stuff–gets to his destination, encourages his daughter when she dawdles, talks on his phone. The girl’s path is less direct (like many toddlers I know!) She stops and starts and shoots down side alleys. The pictures begin in black and white except for spots of color, little flowers eking an existence out of the concrete landscape. The girl is sensitive to these efforts at life and beauty and collects the flowers as she goes.
Then, we see her starting to distribute the flowers to honor a lifeless bird, to surprise a sleeping homeless man, to adorn a dog’s collar. She takes the beauty that only she saw and spreads it both where it may be appreciated and where it might add a spark of life to something that would otherwise just be a dull variance within the grey scene. And the color literally spreads from her generous hands to the world around her. My favorite bit is when she leaves flowers in her mother’s hair when she greets her–my daughter loves to put flowers in my hair too, and I treasure those precious, innocent gestures.
I don’t want to overthink this book. I think it would be a disservice. But I love that it reminds me that we have to see beauty to share beauty. Too often, I want to create a beautiful home, but I allow myself to get wrapped up in the “hurry bury” (as my kids call it) of the day to appreciate the beauty that is already there. That simple awareness of beauty and gratitude for it can change our lives and affect those around us. My daughter never lets a body of water pass by the car window without exclaiming, “Water! Water!” until we all see it and affirm how pretty it is too. My other daughter will find sparkles in the strangest places. We leave a store or church or a park and her pockets are somehow full of small sparkles–sequins, bits of metallic decoration, and glittering silk flower pieces. Of course, there is a need for practicality and focus in life; we can’t all play Ophelia and collect flowers and sing all day without a scrap of reason. But, I think dishes are made more pleasant when I listen to the wind chimes flirt with the breeze outside my window as I scrub. Don’t you?