Once, a very long time ago, longer it seems than anyone can remember, there was a garden and a gardener who took care of it with great love. Everyone agreed that it was the most beautiful of gardens and people came from near and far to enjoy the magnificence within.
Then one day without warning the gardener disappeared and slowly the garden fell into disrepair. Trees died, flowers wilted, green lawns turned yellow and prickly weeds appeared everywhere, until one could not even find the garden. All this was only known from tradition till people barely remembered there was a garden at all. Worse than this, people forgot what beauty was and as the weeds increased people began to call them beautiful. Nowhere could a tree be found and the smell of flowers were a distant memory.
Now once and not so long ago, there was a city and this city considered itself quite important. All the riches of the world could be found there, but nowhere in the whole city could one find even one tree, let alone a lawn to sit on. People in the city though were quite satisfied in their importance and therefore they imagined they had all that life could offer.
One day a man came to this city and when people asked him what he wanted he said, “I’m a gardener and it looks like your city needs a little color here and there.” “What?” they exclaimed. “Who are you to come to our important city and butt in? Be on your way!”
The next day when the Elders of the city came to the assembly hall there was a strange man cutting down the weeds in front of the building. They thought it was quite odd, but since they had more important things to do they went about their business. The next day there he was again, but this time he was planting little flowers. At first they all stood around in amazement. Till one of them said: “who are you and what do you think you are doing?” “I’m a gardener. In the place that I come from this would not be called beautiful” the gardener said. “If one of you would come with me I could show you a place that possesses true beauty and then maybe you would let me do my work here.” Just when their patience was about running out a young man stepped forward and said: “I’ll go with you and report to the Elders if you are telling the truth.”
Now the young man who spoke was the Great Elder’s son, and the way he looked pleadingly at his father, the Great Elder knew he could trust his son. “I’ll give you my permission, but you have just one week to return.” Turning to the gardener he warned: “Be sure to guard my son or you’ll pay with your life.”
So the gardener and the Great Elder’s son set off that very day and in no time at all they were the best of friends. The first night as they got ready to sleep the Elder’s son told him why he had decided to come. “Not too long ago I had a dream about a beautiful garden in a far off land. When I was a young boy I heard my grandfather talk of a garden that existed long ago and ever since I have longed to see the trees and flowers that he said were once there. When you came today I had a feeling maybe the place you were referring to was the place I saw in my dream.”
The gardener listened closely to every word and then said in a very quiet voice, “Soon you will understand my friend, soon you will understand.”
The next day they walked forever it seemed and as they got ready to sleep the second night the gardener said, “Remember your dream and soon we’ll be there.” In no time the Elder’s son fell asleep and before he knew it he awoke, but he couldn’t believe his eyes for there he was in the middle of the most beautiful garden one could ever imagine. Since he had never seen trees or flowers before it was the most amazing sight he had ever seen. Such color, such smells! What a pleasure to walk among endless rows of trees and flowers and to lay down on a soft green lawn under the shade of a tree whose branches blew gently in the breeze. But where was the gardener and how did he get here anyway? With that thought he grew tired and fell asleep. When he awoke the gardener was sitting next to him staring into his eyes. “Where am I?” the Elder’s son asked.
“You were in the ancient garden your grandfather told you about. This was also the garden of your dreams.”
“Only time will tell you more, my friend” the gardener said “but for now it’s time to go back.”
When they returned everyone greeted them at the Assembly Hall and the Elders asked for quiet. The Great Elder said to his son, “Tell us truthfully what you saw.”
The son thought deeply abut what to say; choosing his words very carefully he said: “You must all take my word for it. We need to give the gardener a chance to bring even a little bit of the beauty and wonder that I was shown. More that this I cannot reveal.” The sound of mystery filled his words and the Elders decided to hire the gardener for one year to see just what this stranger could do.
So all that year the gardener worked to make the city beautiful. He cut the weeds, cleared the rocks, planted trees and shrubs, flowers and lawns. He made pathways and benches for people to sit on, and put fountains everywhere. Most of the time the Elder’s son could be seen working with the gardener till past sunset. The people of the city could not believe the difference. What they once called beautiful they now saw as ugly sticker weeds. Where they once saw self importance they began to think about life again.
In springtime just when everything was looking its best, weeds began growing everywhere. The people were very angry because they thought they had been tricked. Everyone yelled at the gardener and wanted to fire him on the spot.
The gardener answered: “I never said it would be easy and I never promised that there would never be any more weeds. Anything worth doing in this world takes a lot of work and perseverance. The earth needs constant care and love and responds accordingly. Wherever you’ll find goodness, beauty and truth, there you’ll see evil, ugliness and lies hiding, ready to choke them out like sticker weeds in a garden. Instead of us talking so much why don’t we just get rid of the weeds.”
And sure enough people came and helped the gardener clean out the weeds. Before they knew it the city was shining with rainbow flowers and the small trees were beginning to reach up to heaven. Soon everyone began working around their houses and the whole city became one extended garden.
Strangely enough though, in the middle of the city there was one large area full of huge, terrible sticker weeds that the gardener would never touch. One day the Elders asked about it. The gardener thought for a long time and said, “The time has perhaps come.”
Everyone in the city came and no one could remember such a big gathering. As they cleared away the weeds they began to see flowers and bushes and lawns everywhere. Where did this garden come form everyone asked in amazement. The more they worked, the more they realized the wonder of this garden in the middle of their city. It even seemed that the trees began growing before their very eyes. How could it be that there was this gorgeous garden in their midst the whole time and they didn’t know it!
The Elder’s son who had directed the work ran to find the gardener so he could see this incredible sight. As the gardener walked around the garden tears welled up in his eyes. He signaled the people to be quiet and he said the following words:
“I want you to know that finding this garden is not the end, but just the beginning. If you want it to be, it can get even better, but be sure not to become complacent, for if you do, the weeds will surely hide this place again. Give the earth the care it needs and it will surely give you back seven fold. Watch closely the changes that occur in the garden; when the leaves fall and when the flowers bloom, how the trees grow and when they need water, for all this is but a reflection of your own selves. Be strong and happy and may God bless you.”
The people listened very closely and then the spirit of rejoicing overcame them. The singing and dancing reached to the heights of heaven and lasted till the sun came up. The Elder’s son sought out the gardener everywhere to tell him he now understood the secret of the garden, but as he already suspected – the gardener was gone…