The Kindness of Strangers

At yesterday’s breakfast there was a small box sitting on the kitchen table with a return address from someone I did not know. I opened the box carefully and found precious gifts inside.

A new friend named Ruth read in the blog how late the gardens, specifically the Cherokee Trail of Tears Garden, were going in.

Ruth said in her letter to me, “I live in Huntsville, Alabama which is on the Trail of Tears. I felt maybe I should send you something from this area that would carry the spirit of this place. Maybe these things will help this garden.”

Not only the garden Ruth, but me too.

Each object was tenderly wrapped in beautiful pink, orange, and gold paper.


I opened the first parcel and found this. Ruth explained, “one is a rock with a fossil in it- we find these things all over this area and up into Tennessee where many of the Native Americans on the Trail came from. Much of our earth is made up of fossil rocks- it’s not all the red clay that people associate with the south-”


Ruth’s next parcel contained this. Ruth notes, “I’m also sending an arrowhead which I found in my garden. I have found several there, and they probably were left by ancestors of many who were sent on the Trail. Actually I am not sure whether it’s an arrowhead or a scraping tool!”

Ruth’s final gift was a tin of altar sand from her personal prayer altar. She explained, “Finally, I’m sending some beautiful red sand from the banks of the Cahaba River, which is South of here. It isn’t on the Trail of Tears, but I felt moved to send it anyways!” She went on to explain, “Maybe because I have had a bowl of it on my altar for a long time, and it’s had many tears cried over it during hard times ( it’s seen a lot of smiles, too, though!).”

What sweet comfort and support offered from a stranger. Thank you Ruth. You are a stranger no more to me. I am grateful for you reaching across the illusion of strangerness to remind me of our common ground, the tears and the smiles of our similar journeys. The fact that we all walk trails of tears at times gives us so many opportunities to connect through our vulnerabilities. I am so grateful you did. You lightened my load!

My gratitude to all of you extends in so many directions. Even as I spend most of my daylight hours out in the gardens, even as my hands do garden tasks, I remain so grateful for all of your many, many kindnesses and think of so many of you with love and gratitude. Your love and encouragement in all its forms lifts me up. I thank you all.


At the Angels request, Ruth’s gifts. including the paper and ribbon. were put in a beautiful red pottery bowl Ben threw and glazed. The bowl was then placed at the center of the Cherokee Trail of Tears Garden at the beginning of the spiral of brassicas.

The Angels explain, “Each of you beloveds necessarily walk your own Cherokee Trail of Tears. The Grandmothers of the Cherokee Trail of Tears remain a steady presence of comfort and support as you walk. We, the Angels overlighting your journeys, never leave your side. We love you and are with you always. Yet even as we remain steadfast companions on your journeys, we are glad when you find kindred spirits from the human community. This gift of Ruth’s, placed at the heart of this garden, expresses the interconnectedness of all life, but it also represents the great gift you give to self and others when you reach across to another on the Trail and offer your love.”

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