Note: I remember my father using this story in a talk when I was young. It stayed with me. I looked for it, but the versions I found online were few, and not how I remembered it from 40 years ago – so I re-wrote it. If you are the original author of this story, I apologize, and hope that you rest in peace, because it is really old.
What got me thinking about this story is that every once in a while I get a flurry of comments questioning my intent with a blog post. This concerned is expressed in many different ways, but the basic thought is this: “You are focusing on such small things when there are much more important parts of the gospel that need our attention.”
My response is simply this:
“Now you may suppose this is foolishness in me; but behold, I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass… (Alma 37:6)
Joan sat down at the kitchen table. The morning was just beginning, and she was already exhausted. The kids were gone to school, and she was thinking about going back to bed. But that would take more energy than she had. She picked at a partially eaten piece of toast that had been left on the table, and surveyed the room. It was a mess, but she really didn’t care. There were plates on the table – some from this morning, most from last night. The sink was full of dishes, the trash can filled to the top.
But the mess wasn’t all new. One of cabinets was broken, and the knob on one of the drawers was missing. The curtains were dusty, but thankfully they hid the dirty windows. The more she looked around the room, the better bed was sounding. Or TV. But she knew that she would have to walk past the kid’s rooms and the laundry room to get there, and that would only make her feel worse.
Yeah, it was bad. And Joan knew it.
A noise at the front door woke her from her thoughts. She heard the doorbell ring and the sound of some hurried footsteps as they retreated.
Joan just sat there. Probably some salesman. Eventually, her curiosity overpowered her lethargy, and she went to the door. No one was there. As she turned to shut the door, she noticed something on the ground. She picked it up, and looked down the street to see who had left it. The street was quiet.
Joan went back to the kitchen table and sat down with the gift. It was a flower. A geranium in a little clay pot. It was red with a single bloom containing many tiny flowers. Attached was a small note, tied to the pot with a piece of twine. It read:
“This is a Magic Geranium. Please Take Good Care of It.”
“Magic. Right.”, scoffed Joan. She set the pot in the middle of the messy table, folded her arms, and stared at it.
“Well, do something! Let’s see some magic.” But the flower just stood in its little pot, in the center of the table. Joan knew there was no magic to be found here, but she was willing to concede that it was a pretty flower – bright, healthy, fresh. The little flower looked out of place on the messy table, so Joan stacked up the dishes on the table and carried them to the sink. She dug out a washcloth and rinsed it out. The least she could do was to wipe off the table to let the little flower be seen without the gunk.
It looked nice. It was good to see the clean table. Joan sat back down and looked at the flower again. Something stirred inside her. The chairs weren’t meant to be a clothesline, so she stood up and gathered the clothes hanging from the backs of the chairs, and pushed them in. Much better.
She stood with the armload of laundry looking around where to put them. “Well, since I already have them, I might as well put them straight into the wash.” So she did.
Upon returning to the kitchen, she smiled at the flower sitting in the center of the clean table. But the new contrast made her notice how dirty the floor was, – so she grabbed a broom. The impact was dramatic, and a bit embarrassing. Things were beginning to look better, and the stirring now felt a little bit like excitement.
With the table, chairs, and floor finished, the counter and sink looked completely ridiculous. Joan tackled them with an energy she hadn’t felt for a while. Before she knew it, she was standing on the counter, taking down the curtains and washing the windows. And so went her morning – and her afternoon.
Joan glanced at the clock and couldn’t believe how the time had flown. She hurriedly returned the clean curtains to the windows. As she was climbing down from the counter, she caught her reflection in the clean glass. She was taken aback: She was still in her pajamas, her morning hair hanging in her face. She looked deeply tired – but behind the tired she could see the beginnings of a fire that she thought had gone out long ago. She looked at the clock again and determined that she had time to get cleaned up, and throw one more load of clothes in the washer before the school bus rolled up.
She made it. She sat down at the table, tired – but a good tired. The house was clean and fresh. She felt clean, fresh, and proud. She was proud of herself, and was already making plans for the next day. Joan reached out and pulled the geranium over to her.
“This is a Magic Geranium”, she repeated aloud. “Yes, yes it is.”
(Oh, oh! One more thing: Alma 32)