I truly believe everyone in her or his lifetime comes face to face with a bit of magic. It’s the kind of magic that reminds you of a simple act that can easily be forgotten – sharing with gratitude.
Every so often I take a morning walk through the residential streets of the city where I live. Our street is lined with olive trees that were planted there by the city in 1964 when the area was first being developed. There is grace and antiquity among these trees with their twisted trunks and boughs that spread out as well as up. They remind me of the olive trees that surrounded the area of my high school in the suburbs of Beirut. Except, here in the suburbs of Los Angeles, some of these trees have been “shaved”, “manicured”, trimmed and cut to resemble ornamental trees sculpted like French poodle heads and tails. I pass by these trees with a quick pace lowering my head as though to apologize to them for man’s lack of appreciation for their natural beauty. They have become ornamental, decorative pieces of earth born sculptures bearing witness to man’s changes in taste, technology, and industry.
That morning, I took a turn onto a street which led up the hill to open fields where most of the homeowners are prairie farmers with small orchards and groves. These were lemon groves. The lemons were ripe and ready for harvest with hundreds of fruit fallen from their branches and scattered around the field. I could not resist the temptation and bent down to take four lemons from the earth (two in each hand). Within minutes of having done so, a police car drove up and stopped me and asked that I return the lemons back to the grove. Taken aback, I argued that I had not picked the lemons from the trees but had taken the ones fallen onto the earth. Regardless, because I had taken more than one, it was considered stealing from the owner’s livelihood. I returned all four.
As a child in Lebanon, I was privileged to spend summers in the mountains where afternoon walks on hillside roads and trails became common everyday pleasure. Sometimes, we walked the usual paths through pine “forests” collecting sundried pine cones with pine nuts just waiting to be cracked open. Often times our feet carried us to trails that led to a lonely walnut tree, with fruit just ripe for the picking. At times, we came across an apple or pear tree where we’d pick one or two to snack on as we continued our merry way. We’d spot a cluster of thorny wild berry bushes. The ripest black berries were usually the hardest to reach, in the center of the bush, underneath a maze of prickly thorns. I always returned home with tell-tell signs of having triumphantly feasted on berries with stains on my fingers, lips and tongue, (not to mention my clothing), and deep scratches on my arms. However, my fondest memories of childhood were in the village of Anjar where my great uncle tended to an apple orchard by the creek. The orchard was surrounded by a wire fence that marked the boundaries of his land. Outside the fence, near the entry to the orchard was a single tree. As a child I noticed that villagers and visitors, children, adults, young and old would often pick a few apples from that tree. I asked my great uncle why he had that tree out in the open. He said that those within the boundary were God’s gift to him and his livelihood, and the tree outside was for sharing God’s gifts with his world. I recall a few years later, another tree had been added outside the boundary. To this he explained that the village was growing and accordingly, God’s gifts needed to be shared. In his own village and in his own way, my great uncle was contributing his share of gratitude into the treasury of humanity.
I walked another residential street in my city. Hanging over the sidewalk from above a fenced front yard of a home full of fruit trees was the most beautiful pomegranate tree with fruits of deep red that had split the skin to reveal beads of luscious ripe sweetness. Remembering the incidence with the police, I stood there for a moment, contemplating, when the lady of the house came out with a small bag for me to fill with pomegranates. “Take,” she said. “The tree’s been good to me. Share.”
A simple act…a bit of magic…sharing with gratitude.