These are azalea blossoms, but they sort of look like japonicas . . . sorta.
These are azalea blossoms, but they sort of look like japonicas . . . sorta.

I thought I’d moved to the “Sunny South” when I moved to Birmingham last year, but the Spring of 2014 didn’t exactly march in and take over. Last year, Spring was more like a timid child, peeping around the door into a room, fearful of what might be found in there. I think this year is going to be different. I think Spring is here to stay! At least I hope it is. I know of churches that held Easter vigil services outside all through Holy Week. In yards everywhere, dogwoods bloom and peonies stand tall, ready to blossom. Of course, vines along fence rows look healthy, too, and in addition to smelling a riot of fragrant smells, lots of folks will be hacking away at unwelcome sprigs of ivy.

Which brings me to the japonicas. Japonicas sprout pretty little flowers, but I’m not so sure I appreciate how arrogant they can get. You put a japonica in a strategic place in the yard to do its job, say along the border of your property where it will provide a pretty green barrier to add privacy to your space, and it will do that job well. It’ll grow. But then, you discover shoots coming up everywhere else, too. If you don’t stay after japonicas, they’ll take over the whole yard! Back when I had a detached house in Winchester, Virginia, my next door neighbor had some japonicas along the border between our yards and those shoots were jutting up into my yard all the time! Luckily, I didn’t have anything growing where they poked up through the grass, so my mower could cut them off early, before they got all those prickly stickers.

Now, here’s another example of how the natural world around us can teach us something. I didn’t have any choice about my neighbor setting out his japonicas. He didn’t consult me about whether or not I wanted japonicas in his yard, and if he had, I would have said something like, “It’s your yard, George!” But you know what? His planting affected me. Those japonica roots don’t know anything about property lines.

And it’s the same way with how we choose to live our lives. The fact is, you and I never make individual decisions. The guy who stopped his car to study his cell phone made an individual choice, but he hadn’t noticed that the traffic light had switched to green. Everyone behind him had to wait. Everything we do shoots sprigs into other people’s lives, and they subsequently have to deal with them.

I could get real preachy on this, especially in the realm of what people might think are individual lifestyle choices, like smoking or eating the wrong things, which when they come to fruition, require massive expensive medical interventions in order to address the resulting erosion of health. But not in this blog post. Instead . . .

. . . watch what happens when you plant a little cheerfulness by looking someone in the eye and saying, “Good Morning!” Watch what happens when you inquire about how someone’s weekend went and then you pay attention and listen. Watch what happens when you take just a little time to show someone a little care. Planting those seeds will yield a like harvest, as surely as your japonicas will pop up in the neighbor’s yard.

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