By Julie Belding

Like the lavender


The beginning of the year, when many of the pressures are off, can be a time to do some soul-searching. In the lazy, warm days of summer it can do us a power of good to take a long walk in the open air and smell the flowers.

The lavender bushes on the cliff top have no detectable aroma, only a purple brilliance that's impossible to miss. I occasionally pluck off a few of the flower heads as I pass, and squeeze them between my fingers. Its then – and only then – that they release their unmistakable scent. Of course the poor flowers are demolished in the process but my hands are left with a pleasant smell as I continue my walk.

The last time I did this I got to thinking: maybe it's not just lavender blooms that release their fragrance when crushed.

There are always people in this world who have it worse than we do. Life deals people some cruel blows. Some are told too early that they have a terminal illness. Some have the responsibility of caring for a disabled child. Some are bereaved of a loved one who was too young to die. But somehow, when they have every reason to feel bitter, many of these people have turned out sweet rather than sour.

Amazingly, some of them have become beautiful, gentle people for whom suffering has been a catalyst for character; people who have received beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning. We all know people like this. But how do we explain them?

In the words of the Austrian American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004): "These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."

Like clumps of lavender, the spirits of these folk can lift and cheer us. For like the lavender, the crushing they have experienced has served only to release their perfume.?

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