This is a most amazing story written by my friend, Ann O’Sullivan. Ann is a psychotherapist whose has begun an initiative called Parenting the Soul, which specializes in working with parents to help develop their children’s potential.
My next door neighbour, Eleanor, came to my door with a colourful bunch of garden flowers. Her seven-year old face beaming, she thrust them towards me.
‘These are for you,’ she said.
I received them delightedly, chatted for a while, cementing the bonds of genuine affection that were growing between us.
Eleanor had come to my neighbourhood a few years previously, her family having been relocated by the Council as part of an initiative to integrate problem families into more stable neighbourhoods. The initiative was having limited success. My old neighbours, resentful and unhappy, made no effort to integrate the new families. And the new families slept in their new homes, but returned to their old neighbourhoods for friendships and socializing. The best point of contact between me and my new neighbours was Eleanor, with whom I had become fast friends.
Two weeks later, she came to the door again, another bunch of flowers clutched in her chubby hand, telling me that she and her cousin Johnny had picked bunches of flowers and were selling them door to door at €2 each in order to make money for sweets.
I looked doubtfully over the hedge at the concrete apron that was her front garden, and smelled a rat. I had imagine that the previous bunch may have come from her Granny’s house, but several bunches? I didn’t think so.
Squatting down so that we were at eye level I said: ‘Darling, where did you and Johnny get the flowers?’ She gestured to an unoccupied house on the other side of mine.
‘In that back garden’ she replied.
I gently explained that the flowers weren’t hers to pick, they belonged to whoever owned the house.
‘But nobody owns that house!’ she told me triumphantly.
So I explained that somebody did own the house, they just didn’t live there. And so she shouldn’t pick the flowers because they weren’t hers. She was crestfallen, and a bit cross with me, and went away with a sullen little pout.
For a time there was a bit of bad feeling between us. Eleanor was angry with me for no matter how gentle and kindly I had tried to be, she had felt reprimanded. But I persevered in chatting with her whenever we met and eventually she got over it, and friendly relations were established between us again. She never mentioned the flowers again, and neither did I.
One year later, I was out and about in the garden, chatting to Sheila, a longtime friend and neighbour. Spotting Eleanor in the distance reminded her to tell me that a few weeks earlier when I had been away, Eleanor had knocked on her door. Gasping for breath from running, she pointed at the vacant house next door to mine and said: ‘My cousin Johnny is picking flowers in that garden and he shouldn’t be, because that’s not his house, it belongs to somebody else.’
Sheila spoke with Johnny while Eleanor looked smugly on, a small little girl who had learned, and internalized, a valuable lesson for the life of her soul.
- Yogi Bear in Oil Pastel (bethparkerart.wordpress.com)