Unexpected Paths

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In the older part of our town, there are several streets with very wide medians, perhaps 250 feet wide, and then on either side of the roads that run along the median are lovely Victorian homes of the 1870s and 1880s. The medians have been beautifully planted, and over the years, the mature trees have given beauty, character, and depth to the neighborhood. Between the stately pines, sycamores, beech, and maple trees is a well-worn footpath used by walkers, dog walkers, joggers and parents pushing all manner of baby strollers.

Last weekend the weather was perfect for a walk. The cloudy skies turned blue and sunny, and the medians were alive with activity.


Miracle on the Median

I can’t speak to the Victorian Days (though my family often asks me if I knew Queen Victoria!) but for the first time in my memory, for three blocks along the median, the smaller pine trees had been decorated with tinsel, Christmas bulbs, an occasional stuffed toy and Christmas angels. Most amazing, there were dozens of gifts placed around the bases of the trees. The “gifts” were empty boxes, but each was beautifully wrapped with a charming ribbon and bow.

Naturally, the displays brought a lot of curiosity. As we walked along the path and passed several people inquired about who was responsible for the fabulous spectacles? Someone asked if it was the neighborhood association, but a member of the neighborhood association said it wasn’t them. Nor was it a school, the scouts, a church or a fraternal organization. No one asked for a donation to do such a thing, and apparently, no one remembered anyone doing the actual decoration. I hesitate to use the word “miracle,” but the effect on most everyone who passed by was miraculous in and of itself. And before going any further, no one has yet determined who did all of the garnishing’s.

However, what captivated me as well were some of the not so positive comments. I overhead someone say “Just wait, someone will come by and destroy this,” and another said, “I can’t imagine how much time and money some fool spent on doing this!” I even heard the predictable “It must be a local business angling to sucker us into something.”

A reporter for the neighborhood newspaper took some pictures, wrote a story and possibly thinking that she was going to break the next Watergate story asked who was “going to get stuck for the bill.”

I am happy to report that the displays are not only intact but that several of us went home and added to the decorations with our excess decorations. If a “fool” originally decorated it then many of us appreciative fools added to it!

Several of us also agreed that if given the opportunity, we would undoubtedly contribute a few dollars to supplement what the mystery decorator had spent, and we all had to pleasantly concede that if a local business or organization had done this, we most probably would have written them an email or sent them a thank you card.


Happiness From What We Give

There were those who passed the displays, which were filled with joy and gratitude. Someone had taken the time to make our town more beautiful. It was a selfless, beautiful and caring act, without any expectation of reward, recognition or fanfare. As we walked along the path, we were grateful for the abundance of the kindness of the anonymous decorator. We mused, “Is this person celebrating a wonderful time in their life? Was this person trying to heal from a tragedy by doing good? Was this a parent trying to teach a child about making the world more beautiful or was it someone elderly and alone who had no one to share in their joy?”

In all cases, we had to appreciate the motivation. We received the kindness in the spirit to which it was intended.

As for those who could only find pessimism, fault or a “catch,” I can say that it is a shame they could not see the gesture simply for what it was.

We all have a choice, of course, to see the beauty and the love around us in whatever form it takes, or to paint each present with darkness and mockery. It is why I always do my best to avoid negative and unhappy people and to celebrate anyone who tries and who gets up no matter what life has dealt them. Whenever you have someone else’s attention, your actions can convince them that the world is a cold, frightening place, or that it’s full of love and joy.

I trust the New Year is filled with beautiful gifts, and you share them generously. I also hope that this blog is a reminder that there are no wrong turns in life, only unexpected paths.




For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.