From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul


I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.

Walt Whitman

My mother was ninety-three when she died. She had all the tragedies of life without any of the compensations. She had lost our dad after only a few years of marriage and was left with two young boys during the Depression of 1929. She gave up her job as a trained nurse and governess to a millionaire’s children in order to do housekeeping, which would allow her to keep the remains of our family together. Although her hands looked like a construction worker’s, due to scrubbing clothes and floors, God was kind and gave her a life with minimal sickness.

After getting my brother and me through school, her only happiness was a TV I had bought her, an occasional visit from my brother, who lived in northern California, and Sunday mornings when I would take her to breakfast.

It was one of these mornings that followed a workweek where my life seemed a study in futility. The only beauty in my world was that there were at least twenty more hours until I had to start a new workweek.

It was a delightfully cool California summer morning. As I drove up to my mom’s old house, she was already sitting on the rough front porch. Mom loved her little old house, which was perhaps the first permanent residence she had ever enjoyed. As I got out of the car and walked toward the porch, I could see her tired old face was radiant with love and the anticipation of the short ride to the neighborhood coffee shop and breakfast.

Her black shoes, as usual, were immaculately polished and as neat and clean as the black skirt and simple white blouse. The blouse was pinned closely around her neck with a blue swallow broach that had gold wire on the surface spelling “Mother.” I remembered giving that cheap little piece of jewelry to her on a Mother’s Day at least forty years ago. Mom never asked for much and apparently never got much either.

She never had much time to teach me about life or things of value, but if you took the time to watch how she treated and talked to people, there was a world of knowledge to be gained in values and living.

I sincerely tried to have Mom feel that these next few hours were as important to me as I knew they were to her. I’m sure I failed in her eyes as I did my own. I was too totally convinced of the ugliness of the world and the importance of my job and material gains.

I helped Mom into the car and as we drove off she said, as she did each Sunday, “My, my, Buddy, what a beautiful car.” I looked upon it as an old model of two years ago with twelve more months of payments until I could get a new one.

Each time she spoke it was of joy and hope, and each time I replied I heard myself returning a courtesy answer, without genuine interest or encouragement. The breakfast finally ended and I was shamefully looking forward to dropping Mom off so I could get back to the dirty, materialistic, real world.

Mom had been quiet the past few minutes, perhaps in the realization that another Sunday visit was coming to an end and that only a few blocks remained until she would be home again with her aloneness.

I was looking at the street’s need for patching and all the houses that were badly in need of paint when Mom suddenly said, as if she were seeing a sunset for the first time, “Oh, Buddy, look, look! Isn’t it beautiful?” It was about 11 A.M., there wasn’t any sunset. What, then, would be so beautiful on this dingy old neighborhood street? Out of courtesy I responded, “What, Mom? What is so beautiful?”

“The grass, Buddy, the grass. Look how beautiful the grass is!” Beautiful grass? As I turned to look at the grass I saw Mom’s wrinkled old face, her thinning white hair, and her long hands with enlarged veins and knuckles that she had earned from eons of sacrifice and love. Her old dimming eyes were bright and shining, and her face was radiant as she pointed to lawn after lawn of plain green grass.

I have seen beautiful faces for quite a few years now, but none as beautiful as this dear lady’s as she perceived the beauty in ordinary grass. How rich she was to have been blessed with seeing and finding beauty in the ordinary. How impoverished and unfortunate I was with my shallow sense of values. As my eyes left her face in shame, I, too, looked at the grass. It was beautiful!

I returned my gaze to my mother’s face. She looked at me as if to say, “See, Buddy, you can see it, too. The grass is beautiful.”

I didn’t want to say a word. I was afraid the magic would pass, that I would lose this wonderful warm peace.

Suddenly I found myself opening the front door of my mother’s home. “Well,” she said, “thanks, Buddy, for this beautiful morning. I know you’re very busy. What are you going to do with the rest of your day?”

I hoped my guilt wasn’t showing, but that she could feel my gratitude for the lesson I had just learned. I took her in my arms and held her tightly as I whispered in her ear, “Mom, I’m going to rush right home and look at the grass.”

John Doll

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