Reflected Garden

There’s a story, possibly apocyrphal, about a luxury hotel in New York that started off its Christmas decorations with a giant tree made of poinsettia plants. Later in the season, when plans called for a live tree with traditional decorations, one of the executives involved with the project asked, “Why don’t we give the poinsettias to a homeless shelter? The residents could sell the plants at Grand Central Station and make a little money for the holidays that way.”

Phone calls were made, arrangements decided, and the next day hundreds of poinsettias were delivered to the shelter, where the director graciously accepted the donation on behalf of the men who lived there, one of whom was asked to say a few words on behalf of his fellow residents. Instead of smiling, he looked nervous as he began. “We appreciate what you’ve done—but would it be okay if we didn’t sell them? We got together, you see, and realized we don’t get much opportunity to give to other people. What we’d like to do is give the poinsettias to the commuters.”

I liked this story the first time I heard it, years ago—and now I’m getting to live it out. One of the pains for me of reduced circumstances is always having to watch what I spend—and this includes what I can give. I’m curtailed in my ability to make extravagant—or even moderate—gestures. But since my photography show, which was funded by friends, has been up, I’ve been newly “rich” in a variety of ways—some sales, exceedingly generous acclaim, personal affection, and photographs worth something. Now I have something valuable I can give—and that has been a gift.

Note: “Reflected Garden” appears in my photostream at