Learning To Love My Dandelions

March 19, 2020

By Sister Pat Kenny

It has been many years since I made a retreat with the late Father Anthony DiMello, S.J. As I grew accustomed to his Indian cadence and accent, I listened more carefully to his words and his stories. He loved telling stories and told them well. The one I remember best went something like this: A man seeded his lawn, watered it well and waited for a fine green carpet of grass. But when it grew, a fine sprinkling of dandelions grew up with it. The grass was green and lovely but the dandelions were not welcome and he used every weed killer he could find to get rid of them.

An image of dandelions at sunset.

Nothing worked. Oh, they died alright, but soon they were back, and more than before. Again he applied the weed killer, and again and again. He grew very angry and went to the maharishi to ask his advice. “I have a lovely lawn,” he said, “but these awful dandelions are spoiling it. I try to get rid of them but I can’t. What should I do?”

The maharishi thought awhile and then asked the man, “Do you not like dandelions?” The man answered, “Well, I suppose they’re flowers but they’re also weeds. I don’t like weeds.” The maharishi thought some more; finally he said softly, “Learn to love your dandelions.”

How many times have I, and you too, probably, wished desperately for something in our surroundings, events in our world, conditions we can’t control or even our own conduct would just go away? Everything would be so nice, so peaceful if it weren’t for _____. But we can’t make it go away; often we can’t even change it a bit. It’s very frustrating and we torment ourselves with fruitless irritation.

What does it mean, to learn to love our “dandelions”?  Perhaps we could “see” them in a different way, e.g. the flower, not the weed. Perhaps it’s our powerlessness or lack of success that’s really causing our distress. Maybe we’ve never really come to terms with accepting the things we cannot change. If we could look at life as we did when our cameras had lenses we could adjust—the viewfinder saw the same thing, but a little fine-tuning improved it.

I’ve heard that dandelions make a fine wine. I have never sampled it but I can accept the fact that ugly plants, ores and raw materials of many kinds can be the source of things quite wonderful.  An oyster makes a fine stew (if you like oysters); a silkworm makes a lovely fabric. A pandemic has the potential to bring us to our knees only to rise again, fewer, older, wiser, more forgiving, more generous, more careful than we ever were before.

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  1. Anne connolly

    Oh thanks, pat. Yes, and love every last person with whom we make eye contact, can give a smile, and whisper a prayer for. Amen.

  2. Rose Marie Tresp

    My novice director used to say: maybe you cannot change the situation but you can change the way you look at it. I have often found this helpful in dealing with people who may annoy me. I loved Father Mello. He came to Saint Louis every year for several years; since I lived a 3 hour drive away in Springfield, I came every year. He had a depth of wisdom. I was once in a communication workshop where each small group had to decide on a new icon for the United States to replace the bald eagle. I persuaded my group to choose the dandelion. If the dandelion were the national symbol, how would we as a country think differently about ourselves?

  3. Ann McGovern, RSM

    Thank you Pat for this reflection. Reflecting on the potential for this pandemic. Certainly highlights the values of self reflection, silence, prayer, gratitude, community and family. Feeling very fortunate to be a member of this community! Sending love and peace of mind to all in this beloved community. In mercy and with love, Ann

  4. Nancy Audette, RSM

    Wonderful advice, Pat. Thank you!

  5. Mary Jo Kearns

    Wonderful observation! Thanks, Pat! I loved His wisdom, too… Blessings are already coming from this pandemic.

  6. Rosemary Jeffries

    Thanks Pat for this reminder that there is good even in challenging times.

  7. Angela enberwein

    Lovely and touching. Thank you, and thanks to responders for their insights as well.

  8. Vicky Arndorfer, RSM

    Thanks, Pat, for your reflection. I caused me to look at the current situation with different eyes. Blessings to you.

  9. Antonette Schmidt

    It’s good to be reminded to always watch for blessings because they keep coming along our way. Thank you for the reminder, Pat. Toni

  10. Lois Harten, RSM

    If dandelions were as rare as orchards, we would appreciate their beauty Thanks for challenging us to appreciate the common things of life.

  11. Mary Daly

    Thanks, Pat.

  12. Diane Marie O'Donnell

    Thank you for this, it really is about how we look at things. This pandemic is actually an opportunity to look at people and the world different, and how we relate to each other. I have tons of dandelions on my lawn,, at first I wanted to get rid of them, but now I just enjoy their own beauty.

  13. Frances Moote

    I too enjoy reading Anthony DiMello SJ

    The story snd your reflection reminded me to look for the good in all situations.
    Thank you.

  14. Frances Moore

    I too enjoy reading Anthony DiMello SJ

    The story snd your reflection reminded me to look for the good in all situations.
    Thank you.

  15. Maggie Finley, Associate

    I love this! It reminded me of “serving tea to your dragons”. And your remarks on the pandemic make a good prayer…Amen.

  16. Kathy Wade, Mercy Associate

    Thank you, Pat, for these words of wisdom and simplicity. I’ve missed your voice, so this reflection felt like a gift. Take care.

  17. Veronica Kovach

    Thank you, Pat, for this lovely story from Anthony DeMello. May many blessings come about because of the pandemic.

  18. Rebecca Quintero

    So true! This is a time to stop our rushing, slow down and enjoy our families and each other. It’s a good time for reflection!
    Thanks for sharing!

  19. Dorothy HaganThanks

    Thanks Pat. Amazing how such a common, ordinary and prolific plant such as the dandelion can inspire such wisdom in us.

  20. Rose Marie Basque

    The posts on this site are always a gift! Thank you so much. God bless, keep you safe and well!