(I am republishing here an article that my youngest son Jeffrey inspired me to write when he was 4-years old. At the time I was a pastor of a church and wrote a column for THE STANDARD, the denominational magazine for the Baptist General Conference where this article first appeared. )
My wife and I just received our last bunch of dandelions. When I saw them all withered that night in the brown Tupperware cup by the sink, I knew there would not be many more. The kids are growing up. Giving dandelions to Mommy is maybe on a twice-in-a-lifetime activity. The novelty wears off quickly.
We both nearly cried at the thought of not being the recipients of dandelions anymore. I wondered why. My neighbors and I slave away with questionable chemicals to rid our corner of the earth of then, and then a 4-year old comes along with beaning eyes, a glowing face, green-stained knees, dirty fingers and a runny nose and it nearly tears our hearts in two.
Dandelions and runny noses. I guess the two of them go together. We despise them, but when they pass from our corporate experience as parents, we remember them foundly. The dandelions show the child’s spontaneous love for a parent; the runny nose show the child’s dependence. When the dandelions and runny noses are gone, love often gets a little less spontaneous and dependences in shown in more subtle ways.
Dandelions and runny noses show the passage of time. That we only go around once in life. That this too shall pass. The withering dandelions in that brown cup on the widowsill are another reminder of our finality. Soon the sum total of our earthly experiences, both good and bad, will be over.
For this reason sentimental persons are to be envied. They are in touch with their finiteness. They do not take themselves too seriously. Their emotions coax them along, help them appreciate serendipity as it happens. Schedules, timetables and legalism have not crowded out the parables that life is telling them. There is room to feel, to sense, to celebrate, to enjoy. Truly sentimental people realize there is more to life than these passing thoughts. They are happy and sad. Sad the dandelions will not be coming anymore, but happy for this expression of love and even happier that it points in a small way to a love beyond.
At the sight of the dandelion the overly sentimental have only sadness. It reminds then that as the flower fades so too will you-know-who, before you know it. The love expresses little snippits of finitude. But the human heart longs for more. Thus, the dandelion is gobbled up by a heart starved for eternal love and, alas, it’s nourishment is found wanting. It craves more and gets only a fleeting feeling; nothing that can fill such a large void.
The unsentimental do not even see the dandelion. “Oh, that’s nice, Honey,” they might say, but then back to the busy work, the gesture forgotten. Many of the unsentimental go instead for all the gusto they can, since they believe they only go around once in life. Pleasure is sought as an end in itself instead of being discovered in the course of living.
Gusto. Personally, I have never been able to grab too much gusto. I would not mind another bouquet of dandelions, though.