The following story was begun a couple of years ago. I have added, a la Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story.”
For the first 50 years of my life, I had never found a four-leaf clover. I admit, I didn’t search very diligently for them, as I believed they were nearly impossible to find.
One afternoon a couple of years ago, my neighbor’s niece was keeping me company while I did some yard work and hung my laundry. She was a precocious little girl, about seven years old, and a child who questioned everything. As you may imagine, after about 45 minutes, her questions began to get a little tedious. However, she seemed happy enough just to hang out in my yard.
I had left her to keep herself company and had nearly forgotten she was there, when she cried out, “Mary! I found a four-leaf clover!”
Skeptic that I was, I called back, “Oh, I don’t think so.”
But she persisted, then cried out, “Hey, I found two!”
Now I was hooked. I called back, "Oh, let me see that.”
Sure enough, there in the grass, were two four-leaf clovers. We each picked one, then began to search for more. All told, our quest rewarded us with seven four-leaf clovers. We left the additional ones in the ground. When my neighbor, her uncle, came outside to collect her at last, we told him her story and gave him a four-leaf clover, too.
Since I am a casually spiritual person, I thought to myself as they left that it took the eyes of a small child to show me what had been right under my nose all the time. And that is where I left the lesson for a time.
However, as life would have it, the lesson really wasn’t over. I began to find four-leaf clovers everywhere: in my own yard, in the grass outside of my office, in the dog park where I walk shelter dogs. I found big four-leaf clovers, tiny four-leaf clovers, striped four-leaf clovers. I have even found a five-leaf clover and a six-leaf clover!
I began giving the clovers as gifts, especially to cancer patients or those with special circumstances. Not so much as a portent of good luck, but as a reminder that sometimes God’s greatest gifts are right in front of us, but we have forgotten where to look.
And now: “the rest of the story”…..
When my little dog, Pepper, developed cancer, I found myself frantically looking for a four-leaf clover for her. It was a mild winter and there was plenty of clover, but four-leaf clovers eluded me. Toward the end of her illness, as we walked through the park, I said aloud: “There is a time for every purpose under heaven. Maybe there is a time for four-leaf clovers, too.” As often happens, a few moments later Pepper sat down in the grass: and practically sat on two four-leaf clovers! Although I already knew her time was drawing to a close, I picked them for her.
When the day came to take her to Penn Vet for what would be her last visit, I was just a mess of emotions. As Pepper took her last stroll in the grass outside the hospital, there, too, we found a four-leaf clover. Though I knew I would have to let her go that day, I still picked the clover and gave it to the emergency room staff. And as I left, with only her leash and harness, I thought to myself that I would probably lay off looking for clovers for a while.
Which is what I have been doing. Recently, though, I volunteered at Philadelphia’s Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT), at a vaccination clinic for dogs and cats. Imagine my surprise and delight, as I set out some folding chairs, to see a four-leaf clover right under my feet.
So, maybe I don’t have the heart to find four-leaf clovers at the moment. Maybe, as I learned that day at ACCT, four-leaf clovers will have to find me. And that brings me back to the original lesson of the four-leaf clover for me, summed up in a poem by Goethe I learned in high school, years ago:
Willst du immer weiter schweifen?
Seih, das Gute liegt so na.
Lerne nur das Gluck ergreifen,
Denn das Gluck ist immer da.
Or, in English:
Must you wander farther and farther?
See, goodness lies so near.
Learn only to grasp happiness,
Because happiness is always here.