Sidewalk Flowers – About Beauty
Every now and then I come across a children’s book that has a message which is suitable for adults as well as children. Sidewalk Flowers, by Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith, is just such a book. It is a story without words. Which seems appropriate when you consider it is about paying attention to the world around you. Sidewalk Flowers is about a little girl and her father who are running an errand in the city. The father doesn’t see what the little girl sees because he is either occupied with his thoughts, or talking on his cell phone. The little girl lives in the moment and therefore, sees the beauty in the sidewalk flowers that she stops to pick. Not only that, she shares the flowers – the message of beauty –with a dead bird, a dog, a sleeping man on a park bench, and eventually her family.
What a lovely message for a busy world. So often I have witnessed couples walking down the street hand in hand, each engaged with a cell phone instead of each other. Or, like the father in the story, becomes too distracted to be fully present for his child. Consequently he misses out on her wide-eyed wonder as she discovers the world around her.
If I had been too busy doing housework, I might have missed the opportunity to play The Little Mermaid with my daughter in her wading pool when she was a child. I just hope the neighbours didn’t hear me singing, Part of your World. Although I’m sure if they did, it made them smile. I know I was happy. Whenever I hear the music from The Little Mermaid, I relive that memory.
And what about people who love to go on whirlwind trips. They see seven countries in five days, but experience nothing, and remember less. Not the people, the culture, the history, the art. Their memories are all on their camera instead of being absorbed into their bodies. I know when I visited England, I couldn’t help touching Hadrian’s Wall. I wanted to feel the energy of all the lives that had taken part in building it. It was a sensory experience that I feel in my fingertips whenever I remember, and that’s powerful.
The ugliness of the world is all around us whenever we pick up the newspaper or listen to the news. It is in the unkind words people say to each other. It is in some of the books we read. Or the abuse tossed about on the internet. It is in the hurt we do each other every day. It is in the midst of all the ugliness of the world that we most need to look for beauty. It’s not hard to find if you take the time to look.
A friend of mine was told that she must face the ugliness in the world if she is to toughen up. But why must she toughen up? Ugliness is easy to find. It’s beauty that we must learn to recognize and appreciate. Beauty is as necessary as breathing. To be exposed to ugliness all the time, is soul destroying. When things, are hard, we must go in search of beauty if we are to heal.
As the little girl in the story shows us, beauty can be found in little things like the sidewalk flowers. Beauty is in a tree, a rock, a wrinkled face, a child’s laugh, hydrangeas in the snow, a sunny day. Even a rainy day, if that your pleasure. I know I have always enjoyed watching a thunderstorm, or walking on the beach in the rain with the wind in my face. For some people there is beauty in numbers, or the way words are put together in the pages of a book. Even in the unhappiest of times, we must search for beauty. There is hope in knowing that beauty exists in the world. At least, that’s what I believe. I know when I spent a winter indoors struggling with anxiety, fresh flowers gave me hope for the spring to come. So, wherever you are, look for beauty. You know it’s there. All you have to do is look.