The Magic Geranium and Becoming Something New by guest writer Linda Forman

Potted Geraniums

As a child I thought geraniums were magic. A simple story helped me maintain the wonder.  It is Jane Thayer’s “The Magic Geranium.”

Mrs. Smith lived in a drab little house with a drab little yard in the middle of a nice little street. Her house was the drabbest in the neighborhood, but she did not know what to do about it. One day, her friend Mrs. Allen came by with a geranium in a pot. “This is a magic geranium,” Mrs. Allen said. “It will make your whole house beautiful.”

So Mrs. Smith put the magic geranium on the drab little table in her drab little kitchen. The geranium was so bright, Mrs. Smith thought it was a shame it was on such a drab little table. “I’ll paint the table, so the geranium has a nice place to rest.” So she went to the paint store and bought some bright yellow paint.

Once the table was painted a nice bright yellow, Mrs. Smith looked at it and said, “It’s a shame that the chairs look so drab next to the table. I’ll paint them, too.” So she painted the chairs a nice bright red. When she was finished she stepped back and looked at what she had done. “My table and chairs are so bright, it’s a shame they’re in this drab kitchen.” So back to the paint store she went, and painted her kitchen a nice bright color, and bought nice bright curtains to hang in the windows.

The kitchen was so pretty, Mrs. Smith said, “The kitchen is so nice and bright, but the dining room is so drab next to it.” So back to the paint store she went and painted the dining room. When she was done she looked at the dining room and said, “The dining room is so nice and bright, but the living room is so drab next to it.”

Pretty soon, Mrs. Smith had painted all the rooms in her house a nice bright color. When she was finished, she said, “It’s a shame that the inside of my house is so pretty, but the house is drab. That’s not right.” So she painted the house a nice bright color. When she was done, she looked at what she had done and said, “Now the house is nice and bright, it’s a shame the yard is so drab.” So she planted pretty flowers in her yard and soon had the nicest house in the neighborhood.

Mrs. Allen came back for a visit and was amazed at the changes. “You’ve done a great job making your house so nice,” she said.

“I didn’t do anything,” Mrs. Smith said. “The magic geranium you gave me made my house beautiful.” (Retelling here.)

I always wanted to paint a table or sew new curtains, rearrange my bedroom on a regular basis and I thought it was my duty to order and beautify my surroundings.  I did this often because we moved somewhere new in the world every year or two with my engineer father. I always started with a pot of flowers.

“The Magic Geranium” taught me that one small thing can make my life better, and then one more, and then one more until huge change has happened. Additionally I learned that I am responsible for the change I seek in my life. (Remember the theme of this month: It is me, not them.) In my life, I am the change agent.

One idea can change the world. In the words of Kobi Yamada in What Do You Do With An Idea? 

“Then, one day, something amazing happened. My idea changed right before my very eyes.  It spread its wings, took flight, and burst into the sky…and then, I realized what you do with an idea…You change the world.” (Yamada, Kobi. (2013).What Do You Do With An Idea? Seattle: Compendium, Inc.)

If any of you were to come to our home you would notice potted red geraniums all around. More than once I have given these potted flowers to someone as Mrs. Allen did.

The great books and stories I have sought out and read have been indispensable in discovering who I am and who I want to be as well as in helping me develop my values and informing what choices I make. Somewhere between “Once upon a time” and “They lived happily ever after” I have found virtue, wisdom and redemption.

It is about becoming! Character has always been the chief goal of classical education, cultivating wise, virtuous men and women. And in the process of becoming, I can tell you that you and I both will be inspired to change the world around us, step by step and room by room, to be brighter and more beautiful.

Published by Dean Forman

I am co-founder and CEO of the John Adams Academies, an institution that is perhaps the most unique charter school system in America today. The Academies’ curriculum is designed to give its students an American Classical Leadership Education®. This is an education that pursues truth, beauty and goodness and turns its scholars outward in search of those whom they can serve in becoming servant leaders. This website is dedicated to sharing the concepts of an American Classical Leadership Education with its readers so that more citizens can benefit from the truth, virtue and wisdom of the past. The thoughts and opinions I share on this page are my personal views.

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