All in the perspective

The other day we were all outside enjoying the sunshine, and my daughter found the first dandelions of the year. She loved them! She showed them to me and her dad and her sisters. She rubbed them along her cheek and exclaimed about how beautiful and soft they were! She was overjoyed when I told her that she could pick any dandelions she wanted, whenever she saw them.

Later, the sweet older lady from down the street dropped by to chat. When my daughter pulled the beloved crushed dandelions out of her pocket to show off her treasures, “Amma” told her that those flowers are yucky weeds. Ms Action’s face changed, she looked at the flowers in her hand puzzled.

I interjected, hoping to change the pattern of conversation “They are pretty though, and you can pick them whenever you want to!” Ms Action looked hopeful.

“Yes.” Said “Amma”. “You can come over and pick all the ones in my yard and throw them in the garbage!”

The conversation changed after that, but the damage was done. My 4 year old held the flowers for a few more moments, but the magic was gone. She dropped them on the ground reluctantly.

How many times do we destroy joy?

“Your efforts in cleaning this room are pathetic because you didn’t vacuum in the corners.”

“You are not beautiful because you have love handles and acne.”

“That career choice is stupid because there are so many other “more meaningful” things you could do.”

“Your parenting efforts are pointless because you… (don’t breastfeed, don’t stay home full time, don’t eat organic, don’t homeschool… etc.)”

“You’re a terrible provider because you can’t afford a house.”

What some people see as beautiful, other people see as weeds. But even dandelions are also flowers. Does something or someone really have to be “perfect” in order to be beautiful, or even acceptable? What if we really were good enough? Supposed flaws and all.

Or what if we look at it another way? This kind of thought pattern is very alive in religious circles as well, and the older lady friend of mine was technically correct. Dandelions are weeds. But does that mean that no one can appreciate their beauty? Is there no positive side to dandelions? Nothing to be redeemed or appreciated?

When faced with what we see as spiritual weeds in someone’s life, is our only option to intuit eternal fires that “burn away the chaff”? Is it our religious God-given “duty” to (at the very least) “encourage” them to throw it in the garbage?

“Your love for that person is evil and wrong because you are sleeping with them.”

“Your marriage is pointless if you are having those issues.”

“Your talents and abilities are worthless because they don’t fit what a “Godly” man/woman is supposed to look like.

“Your faith is ineffectual because you don’t believe the “right” things, or practice them the “right” way.”
Is there truly nothing redeemable about these “weeds”? No beauty? Nothing to be appreciated?

I think this is the point of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee looks around his garden and thanks God that his crop is looking great. He compares his garden to his neighbour’s and says to himself “I’m so glad that I am a better gardener than that guy. My soil is rich, not like his hard clay. My plants are productive and numerous, nothing like those measly excuses for plants. My plot never looks overgrown like his does. I’m so glad I am a diligent hardworking gardener.”

And he has no idea that his neighbour the Publican hardly had enough money for seeds, much less fertilizer. He doesn’t know that his neighbour has health challenges and chronic pain that have kept him from weeding consistently. In contrast, the Publican looks around his garden, (never bothering to compare to anyone else’s) is thankful for what he has, and has hopes for improvement. He thanks God, and asks for mercy in the face of the unknown.

Is it possible to truly love someone even when they have what you perceive to be “weeds” in their life? Can that person be embraced and accepted, weeds and all? Is it possible that God is the gardener who can remove any weeds that need to be removed, without any help from anyone else?

Fundamentalist Approved Feminist Literature
Re-post: I am Not My Parents
Re-Post: Lies we tell ourselves about abuse
What I Understand
  • dulce de leche

    As always, a beautiful and challenging post. And I have always loved dandelions. :)

  • lauren

    This is a great post– thanks.

  • Rebecca @ The Road Home

    Absolutely beautiful reflection. Thank-you.

  • Tawny

    This is awesome and I love dandelions :) they are such sweet, innocuous little flowers.

    I once had a priest tell me in confession that I didn't love my boyfriend because I had had sex with him…and it just felt wrong for him to say. I know he was trying to direct me well, but I also knew I love this guy (now my husband). Anyway I just liked that you used this as an example.

  • Sally Thomas

    Dandelions: not weeds! Beautiful, useful flowers! You can make jelly out of them! It's not hard — if I can do it, anyone can. Just pick a bunch of dandelion flowers, steep them in boiling water for 3 minutes (any longer turns it green), then strain. Mix 3 cups of this "tea" with 1 pack of Sure-Jell fruit pectin and a tsp of lemon or orange extract, and bring to a boil. Add 4 1/2 c sugar and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

    I'm not good at canning (ie I don't trust myself not to give us all botulism), so after it cools a little I decant it into plastic containers and freeze or refrigerate, depending on how soon I'm going to use it. This is delicious jelly, very like honey, a beautiful pale gold, and we've been eating it with our bread and butter all spring. My kids *love* making it with me, and it's given them a real appreciation for "that stuff out of the yard."

    In case you were looking for a way to redeem the dandelion moment a little, and to make it teachable, in the sense of communicating that although people usually mean well, they don't always know the great secrets of things. Maybe "Amma" has never tasted the beautiful and delicious things you can make with dandelions!

    I often felt that way as a child, by the way, as if I weren't allowed to think the things I thought or love the things I loved. Once, I remember, I was watching my grandmother dress my baby cousin, and I said something like, "Mary Susan is the most beautiful baby in the world," which I thought was a nice thing to say, and also true.

    My grandmother said, "Well, don't you ever tell Aunt So-and-So that." I went around for years thinking I had said something either really bad or really stupid (I was about 5 at the time), and it was only as an adult that I realized that my grandmother had had a big hangup about people getting the big head — especially, probably, her daughter-in-law. As a kindergartener, I could never have understood that, and thought I was the one who was wrong, as I think children tend to when adults don't see things the same way.

    By the way, it should go without saying that if you chem your lawn, you shouldn't make jelly with your dandelions, but if you don't, go to it. Offer to pick Amma's dandelions and make her some jelly, too.

  • SarahZ

    Poor little Miss Action. My girls love them too. We have an easter bucketful of decaying dandelions in our kitchen because the girls bring at least one handful of them to me every day and they of course want to keep them to make the house "pretty". So we keep adding more and more to the bucket and thats just fine.

  • Arual

    I think it should be noted that Dandelions are an incredibly useful plant, and like many so-called weeds, an excellent source of nutrition as well as beauty.

    My mother's definition of weed is "anything that grows where I don't want it," not necessarily a plant that is useless or ugly, so I have a different perspective on this than some, I imagine.

    I also love how dandelions look once they're put to seed. It's hard to resist blowing them and helping them spread!

  • Anonymous

    What a lovely post.

    On weeds : my mother loves gardening, I don't. I appreciate it in the abstract, but not only do I not enjoy the actual physical work of it, I quickly realized when helping my mother that gardening is 99% destroying things. Whenever I turned the soil I'd be thinking of all the earthworms and bugs I was cutting to pieces.

    I also realized helping my mother that what makes a weed a weed isn't how pretty it is (lots of weeds are very pretty), or how useful it is (lots of cultivated plants aren't useful). What makes a weed a weed is how strong and resilient it is. Namely, the stronger and more resilient a plant is, the more hated weed it becomes. Gardeners like plants that actually need the gardener to grow, and the plants that are good enough at growing that they'll thrive despite the gardener mess with that plan. (and, well, they crowd out the fragile flowers the gardener actually wanted to grow but that's strength and resilience for you)

    (I mean, look at my mother's nemesis :
    Not only is does it have the prettiest flowers ever, apparently the slightest speck of it left in the ground allows it to grow back. What's not to love ? :p)

    Dandelions are also fascinating flowers in their own right. Unlike other flowers that nicely follow the stamen+pistils+petals structure we learn about in school, they put all their flowers together so that they look like a single big flower. So in a manner of speaking when you pick a single dandelion you're holding a bouquet.


  • Incongruous Circumspection

    Dandelions are weeds!!! LOL! But, I've had to move away from that premise after having squirts. They love them. The cool part about those weeds though is that they die in a vase every day so the kids want to go pick a new bouquet the next day. Keeps the joy fresh in their hearts.

  • PersonalFailure

    You know what the difference is between a weed and a notweed? What we have decided, that is all. I spend half my time once the weather gets warm trying to get a lawn that is all grass and no weeds, and why? Because somewhere along the line somebody decided grass is good and dandelions are bad, and now I'm stuck with it.

    Personally, I love dandelions. They're one of the first things to bloom, they're a pretty yellow, and they bloom until the first hard frost. I pick the first ones I see and delight in them. I am sad when I have to kill the ones in my lawn. And I remember being your daughter and being told that what I found beautiful and special was trash. That sadness lingers still. I have no idea why people can't just let others be happy with their treasures.

    If I had a time machine, I'd go find the person who decided grass was better and slap him around until he changed his mind.

  • munchesmom

    What a great post! It's amazing how just one little comment can really change a person's perspective & esp. hurt a child's feelings.

    As I was reading, I was reminded of a story & read once of a humorous, yet thought-provoking conversation between God & St. Francis. Here's a link to it, if you're interested:

  • Shanda

    I loved this post. AS individuals, and as part of the church we need to see the good and beauty in everything. And encourage others to do the same. I totally related to the first part with your child and then became more intrigued when you brought out how we often act as Christians.
    thank you

  • jemand

    Dandelions come from Europe, where they were cultivated and treasured for centuries. The only reason they are here in North America at all, is that they were brought with much love and placed in gardens to remind themselves of where they came from, and to enjoy the plants in their new home! Many of the "weeds" people disparage have the same stories… loved by thousands of people over thousands of years, and yet now considered trash.

    I find it useful to think of them as proof that society doesn't always know value and trash when they come across it, and misjudge things greatly.

    And I also have always loved their resilience, and how if their flowers are cut, they start having their next flowers bloom at just about that same height that the original was cut. So you can see the flowers always at the level of grass, in lawns, or on up to two or even three feet of stem, in a wild field. (But that's rarer.)

  • Aunt Vik

    Happened to me. That lady got a look that she knew not to cross, and I said, "You don't know a beautiful flower from a weed? THESE are my favorite flowers and you have no idea what you're talking about." I put them in a vase. Lady said no more.

    I can give a look that kills, when I want to. Hurt my kids and you're askin' for it!

    I remember my kids used to love Latin until people (lots of people) would say to me, right in front of them, "Why are you making them learn LATIN? That dead language? I hated Latin." blah blah. Took a long time for them to enjoy it again. Now I just make sure to take my dirty looks with me wherever I go… never know when I might need one of them.

  • Emma B

    Dandelion coffee, dandelion tea, dandelion salad, dandelion wine, dandelion beer….. Need I go on?

  • holagatita

    Dandelions. Also marigolds. A beautiful work to read, that values the devalued, is Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye.

    You are on such an inspiring journey, I am in awe.