There were two men. Each had a backyard with a half-acre. One planted beautiful flowers all around his house. The other planted some flowers to share with the neighbors, but in the back, he planted potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions and fruit. The first man was gratified by the praise of the neighbors. He never shared his flowers.
The second man, although not growing the most beautiful flowers, shared his seeds and wisdom. When the crops came in, he bottled and canned, sharing some of the produce with people in the neighborhood. Some of these people snickered behind his back, “What pathetic apples! They aren’t smooth and shiny like the ones at the market! Look at these tomatoes. They are so tiny!” The first man secretly looked down upon the second man and sneered.
A couple years went by. The first man brought home a trophy wife after a long honeymoon in some foreign country. Weeks later, the second man married a pretty girl in a small church ceremony. They spent their honeymoon in cabin. The first man and his wife looked down upon their simple neighbors. While the first couple showed off their possessions and fancy yard, the second couple spent their money on necessities, planning for a family. The second wife became large with a baby. That child was followed by another and yet another. She was fertile like her husband’s garden. The first wife wiggled her little behind and caught the attentions of every person on the block, with her beauty and the latest fashions that she wore.
The second wife shared her skills with the neighbors: how to save money during hard times, how to can. She tended to the sick and kept confidences. She was a true friend to all. Her children helped the elderly and were a joy to many. The first wife’s hands were smooth and she feared marring them with the hard work that comes with helping the needy. She was put off by the thought that people might think that some of these deprived souls were her friends and wouldn’t be seen near them.
One year, there was a drought. It continued into the next year. The markets had little food and what little there was cost an unprecedented amount of money. The first couple soon ran out of funds. The second man shared what he had with the neighbors but the first couple was too proud to take the canned goods he offered.
Every day, the second family walked all the way to the little stream that was once a broad river and carried back large buckets of water for their plants. There was not enough to nourish the flowers, but they knew what was more important than the blossoms’ beauty: it was the harvest. The crops had their own appeal, from the petals in the spring to the variety of colors and flavors in the autumn.
The drought went on for a decade. All the while, the first wife grew old and restless. Her skin no longer had the dew of youth. The resentment for her living conditions began to show on the woman’s face. Yet, the second wife’s happiness seemed to radiate. The woman’s husband and children were her joy and together they helped the neighborhood make it through.
In the end, everyone acknowledged that the second man and his wife were wise and kind. They were remembered long after the first wife left her husband, long after he died of heartache and loneliness and was lowered into the ground.
We are not statues to be worshiped, but basins full of water.