–To give without thought of reward is the beginning of immortality. __Eck teaching
Sri Harold Klemp, the Mahanta, the Living Eck Master, once commented that the more we unfold, the more we feel the need to give. In the office one day, a memo circulated to all employees by the Employee Activity Committee addressed that need. On St. Valentine’s Day, the E.A.C. missive announced, the Committee would for one mere dollar deliver a single red carnation to the fellow employee of one’s choice–male or female, boss or friend, romantic or otherwise. Best of all, the giver could be identified or left anonymous. The company hardly encouraged in-house romances, but the opportunity was there.
For me, romance didn’t apply. My current love life insulated me completely from Roving Eye Syndrome; I would be no help at all when it came to producing a bumper carnation crop. Still, the wheels started turning. Someone in the building could surely use an anonymous botanical pick-me-up. But who? Surrounded by piles of files a snowball fighter could have used as a bulletproof fort, I paused and considered. Who?
Anonymous or not, it should be someone for whom I harbored only good feelings so that no invisible inner vibrations could taint the gift. It must come, in other words, from a pure heart. Yet I was new with this company, having been here only a few weeks, with most of those spent on the road or buried behind mounds of manila file folders. The only employees I knew well were the five or six who had worked with me at my last job before we all gravitated to a newer, smaller company for better pay, more prestige, and a chance to be heard by management.
Fortunately, one of that group gradually began to emerge as a possibility. Carol had been the senior rater atour last job together and had provided crucial training upon my reentry during the detail oriented world of commercial insurance after a multi-year absence. Sitting at her desk that first day, I’d noticed a certain inner tension about her–aided by a few clues such as her chain smoking and bits of conversation with other employees. She lived in a different world, yet she’d been from the beginning a channel to teach me…as well as an associate who had not ratted to the bosses that my rating skills were more than rusty from disuse. Those “skills” had been more akin to terminally ill and tied into a lung machine.
Yes, perhaps Carol could use a little boost.
The workday finally ends, overtime and all. Thunder, the 1975 Ford Granada complete with V-8 engine, torn seat covers, and twelve mile per gallon fuel consumption, waits patiently in the company parking lot. Disguised under dull green paint and forty-three custom coats of San Diego dust, Thunder is strong, ready, willing. Most of it. Seven cylinders fire, the eighth and final spark plug wisely holding itself in reserve for the longer high speed trips. A Hank Williams, Jr., tape settles into the Pioneer cassette deck and pounds out solid country western music.
Homeward, past busy El Cajon Boulevard and the tricky, ever jammed intersection at Orange to my beautiful wife and the apartment we share with her daughter in a roach infested neighborhood in North Park. The bugs seem to be getting peskier and more persistent as the neighborhood continues to deteriorate. It will be time to move shortly, but the Eck has not yet said, “Go!”
More cycles of busy home life and busy work life roll around, day in, day out. The Day of Flowers arrives at the office. Curious as a cat with eight of its nine lives left to use and new territory to explore, I listen as Carol, Bobbie, and Leslie compare notes. Both Bobbie and Leslie have received several carnations apiece.
Carol announces, “I got one, too!” She is smiling.
Fantastic. A happy grin washes through my insides, sloshing around like fresh milk still warm and steaming in the pail on a dairy farm some brisk October morning. Sometimes it’s really nice, being able to hear how the story comes out.
That should have been the end of the story: Anonymous Admirer Gives Emotional Boost. But it was not.
Valentine’s Day went its red-hearted way, so pierced with Cupid’s darts that it resembled an oversized porcupine whose quills had gone the wrong way. Within the office structure, responsibilities shifted back and forth in the flux of matching personnel with the marketplace. Our department began to expand rapidly. The company even sold our office building at a handsome profit and moved us to a brand new structure built with part of the proceeds.
During all of this, a change became noticeable in Carol. Her attitude toward me seemed to open and soften. We had never been at odds. Now we actually became friends, a relationship entirely unspoken yet acknowledged in a smile or a nod, a subtle feeling physically intangible yet nonetheless real. Eventually, I found out why. The E.A.C. had seriously exaggerated in their promise of anonymity. Humans are ultimately human after all, and someone had informed Carol of the flower giver’s identity. Neither of us ever admitted this, yet the carnation, long since withered and gone, continued to serve as a focal point for an improved relationship.
Of course, any friendly symbol could serve as a matrix for such good feelings between two people; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a flower to get the job done. Still….
If you ration a carnation
Or get crazy with a daisy,
Even focus on a crocus,
Love’s the power in the flower!
Or words to that effect.
For our readers who may not recognize terms like Eck, Mahanta, or Living Eck Master, the definitions can be found in A Glossary of Eck Terms at Eckankar.org.