Last week my two grandchildren, aged just 9 and 4, came in from the garden full of the kind of excitement that, it seems to me, comes easily to children but only rarely to us as we grow. Both speaking together, words tumbling over each other in their enthusiasm, they announced their most important news: “Nana, we’ve brought you flowers!”.
I looked down. There, held gently in small palms, were their trophies: two daisies and a small pansy, which they had found in our lawn. Now, there is no shortage of daisies on what passes for our grass. The colour it currently boasts comes from a host of dandelions (beloved by goldfinches, a good justification for not mowing too often) and an equal share of daisies. For some inexplicable reason the lawn, which pre-dates our occupancy, was planted over weed suppressing membrane, which does nothing to subdue the weeds but everything to defeat a decent growth of any grass apart from the invasive couch.
So daisies are a-plenty. The pansy less so, a seed escapee, raising its head where it would be mowed rather than finding the safety of the border. But in any case these flowers, regardless of their origin, were precious. So I found an unlikely vase – a tiny medicine cup which was not special but could hold its treasured contents safely. They took pride of place for a week above my sink, so that I could look at them regularly and smile. I’ve only just had to admit defeat and let them go, their petals spent.
There was nothing special about the flowers, of course. What made the gift so treasured was those who gave it, these two little people who I love so much.
When I was growing up, I was surrounded by gifted people, in particular my father, a revered doctor, and my brother, an athlete who regularly broke records. My school too had a number of high achievers. I was average at a number of things, and a disaster in others, notably sport and art. Now lest loyal family and friends want at this point to leap to my defence, please don’t. That is not my point here. I have learnt to celebrate and enjoy the gift of being ordinary.
It is so easy to fall prey to comparison – to feel as though the gifts we bring, particularly to God, are like the common daisy. Yet what makes them precious is not the what, but the who. Our gifts may be the equivalent of an exquisite rare orchid or as unexceptional as those lawn weeds. But because we are loved by God, far more than we realise, anything we bring to him is treasured: the briefest prayer, simplest act of service to another, or smallest choice that is loving rather than selfish. And unlike the daisies, they are held lovingly in the heart of our creator and so can never fade.