How many gentle flowers grow
In an English country garden?
I’ll tell you now of some I know
And those I’ll miss I hope you’ll pardon
As the earth, spins on its axis in its yearly course, the angle of sunlight changes. A warming occurs in the northern hemisphere causing the winds from the ocean off Oregon to subside. “From late spring to early fall,” the weather service reports that high pressure over the Pacific “generally keeps the Northwest fairly dry.” From jet-ways at 30,000 feet passengers looking down at the Rogue Valley through the clear air and see a world gushing green.
In this garden land is St. Vincent De Paul’s Thrift Store on North Pacific Highway. There is probably no other store in the valley that sees such a mix of society. Property from estates, from the many retirement homes and senior condos arrives daily, as well as items of more ordinary quality. Perhaps six hundred individuals of all social classes, incomes, and states of mind and body, shop here each day. The parking lot is seldom empty. All this makes the store a country garden, where the roses, the foxgloves, the weeds, and forget-me-nots of our human community converge.
I volunteer as a cashier in this microcosm, and the socks, blouses, pots, CD’s, and electrical appliances that pass across my counter barely change form one day to the next. But when the season is spring and the weather fine, the normally friendly atmosphere clarifies and hearts brighten.
The National Weather Service at Medford International Airport, Oregon vainly tries to encapsulate the day. “Quiet and mild weather,” the agency reports, “is on tap around the region through the weekend. A short wave will flatten out the upper ridge and push into Washington and Northern Oregon Saturday afternoon.” But much more is at play here.
One cannot measure spring, but as sure as the sunlight, the miracle is there, I can sense a difference. Scratching with a pen on the blank backside of a St. Vincent DePaul “Thank you for Helping Us Help Others” receipt. Between keystrokes on the register, making change, processing Visa Cards, filling shopping bags, I take notes. I am struck by the fact that in a society where the gap steadily broadens between the haves and the have-nots, all God’s children are equal in matters of spring.
An elderly woman with gray hair who was thrilled by the change in weather, exults: “Its like we’ve been let out of prison.”
A young man, with orange hair and goggle glasses comments: “It’s a good day!”
A matron, with matching earrings and necklace chirps: “Its so beautiful. I am loving it. It makes you feel good compared with the cold and dreary days.”
Outside in the parking lot, I can see grass. The trees are popping buds, and early flowers are blooming. The broken, the homeless, the seniors raising their children’s child, those with coughs and wheezes, the hollow-eyed artists, the homeless needing shoes: In our shared appreciation of the day, we celebrate something more profound than a few gradations on the Fahrenheit scale.
“How is it going?” I ask.
“Good, “ the mother with a young infant replies. “How are you?”
“Thank you. God bless!,” an elderly man with cane exclaims.
Others continue the refrain.
“I am fine, its nice and sunny.”
“Que tenga buen dia!”
A middle-aged woman in a wheelchair, comments: “Everybody is in a good mood. It’s the weather and the flowers. Keep the mood going.”
We may not grasp the full marvel of this day, but we sense it. At one point in the classic American drama, “Our Town,” the young heroine exclaims “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you…” The playwright’s point is that reality is something richer, more blessed than we can ever fully assimilate. So it is. The street people, the bridge people in their soiled clothing, visitors from the coast, a partially bearded man in a black leather jacket join me in celebrating something we do not fully understand. The glory of the day pulls us out of our private enclosures into a common liturgy of praise.
There are deep things here. “The human person,” the great Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner once wrote, “is intrinsically, inwardly related to a holy mystery…. In every experience in which humans reach out beyond themselves and their finite world toward an infinite horizon of meaning, hope and love, they show that they always already know God explicitly.”
On a spring day, we are joined with others in recognizing a super-plus of meaning of everything around us that is somehow greater than all of its parts. It is the presence of God, it is love, it is the gift of life. And for this we pause in wonder and give thanks.