What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


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The gardener

Posted on September 30, 2016 by Katy Byrne

Could acts of kindness really change the world?

It sounds corny, but, Marianne Williamson says, “The me-first attitude that pervades our society is the source of our unhappiness.” Maybe generosity could change this crazy planet for the good?

Remember when the car in front of you used to pay your toll going over the Golden Gate Bridge? You know the feeling when a neighbor drops a bag of apples on your porch? It’s so exciting, like a glistening gift of grace.

Maybe giving to others should be a part of our daily lives.

The other day, someone offered to help me in a way that just blew my mind. It was a hot summer afternoon, and everything seemed overwhelming. I was bent over by fatigue and my to-do list. One of many tasks was to prune my poor rose bushes – I hadn’t done it in years.

Out of the blue a neighbor called: “Can my Mom prune your back garden?” Soon she arrived with her shovel and marched into my back yard. She spent hours working on my overgrown garden in the 90-degree heat – my mouth just hung open. I hardly knew her, and even her daughter was a new acquaintance. She said she worked full time, but even with a big schedule, she liked to garden. I watched her sweating in the dirt, catching thorns in her elbows, all to help me out, as she so loved seeing flowers bloom.

After I watched her sink her hands into the chicken manure to spread it around the poor plants I was even more astounded, pleading, “You do that like it’s nothing. Don’t you want gloves?” ‘Oh no, I do this all the time.’” She said she just liked helping- even with blackberry bushes scratching her bare arms.

I hate to garden, so this honestly felt somewhat like a miracle, almost as if an elf had dropped out of the sky to help me.

I can’t tell you how jubilant I felt. I mean, imagine someone appearing at your home and fixing something that really bugs you for no reason and no pay. I scratched my scalp. How could this happen?

I felt as if I was involved in a miracle. Why would a relative stranger want to give me hours of hard labor for no reason? Was it because I chatted with her the week before as I walked around the block? I wondered if my own friendliness and honesty had invited this generous guest.

Maybe because I was friendly and loving I encouraged her to help? “Ask and you shall receive”? I was in such awe watching her toil in the heat I couldn’t stop asking myself how this angel in my garden appeared. Do we get as we give?

Could it have been a reward for my own reaching out? I can’t tell you how utterly giddy and grateful – how cared for I felt.

Erich Fromm said: “Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love.” So, why not get busier giving and really rev it up in our lives and community? I know we have internet exchanges like Hitch and Barter and other things, but how about even more generosity back and forth? Maybe more block parties announcing our needs, etc?

Oh, I know it’s easier said than done. Giving requires a certain kind of re-direction of our values and thinking. It takes a little effort. Even while writing this I ran into a friend who said, “Everyone’s so overwhelmed and edgy. I multi task on the toilet, for God’s sake.” Our culture is all about self-sufficiency and a fast pace, but can’t we shift our values around in spite of it?

When I find zucchini with “for free” signs on my walks I always get a lift in my step. When I find a bag of apples on my porch, it changes my world. The love you take is equal to the love you make.


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