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Daffodil Principle Revisited

The Daffodil Principle Revisited

by Waitsel Smith

Getting Past the Sap to the Fire and Blood of Real Life

I recently opened my 12-year-old Apple laptop, after having neglected it for over five years, and, as I expected, it still worked. (I was surprised, though, at how small and insignificant the desktop looked, compared to my present one.) On it, I found something I had saved called "The Daffodil Principle." If you aren't familiar with that particular cultural phenomenon, Google "daffodil principle" and find a version that doesn't have sappy music playing in the background, because the story itself is sappy enough without adding to it. That's not to say I don't like "The Daffodil Principle" - I do. What I don't like is what people have done with it. Most likely, it started out as a journal entry by a lady named Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards about a daffodil farm near her home. What it has become, though, is the pinnacle of what I would call the "fortune cookie approach to life." In other words, give me a message I can feel good about for the next two hours, and I'm good to go. Kind of like mental caffeine.

As Edwards tells it, she tried to get her mother to come see the daffodil farm while it was in full bloom, but the lady resisted. After basically tricking her into seeing it, she was overwhelmed by its glory. It was five acres of different varieties of daffodils planted in flowing, swirling patterns of yellow. Among the flowers, there was a sign that read, "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking: 50,000 bulbs. One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain. Began in 1958."

Now for the moral (or fortune cookie message) of the story: One day at a time. That is to say, start out with a vision, take one step at a time, and continue down that road, doing the next right thing, one day at a time - in this case, one bulb at a time - until you accomplish whatever it is you set out to do. With that approach, you can accomplish anything, according to Ms. Edwards and her adherents.

So how did Ms. Edwards' mother respond to this message of inspiration and encouragement? Regret. She regretted that she hadn't started something long ago and stuck with it. Then maybe she, too, would have a "field of daffodils" to enjoy and share with others. But Edwards pulled her out of her funk by saying, "Start tomorrow."

Now, this is a good message we have all heard many times and in many ways. But I kind of like this cynical take on it by one reader:

"It made the woman's neighbor glad she bought that tractor with the handy roto-tilling blade and bulb planting hopper. Now the neighbor has 100,000 tulips planted and it only took 2 weeks. Just think what you can accomplish if you actually use technology." :)

It seems that for every pie-in-the-sky, sappy, sentimental, Pollyanna-ish story like The Daffodil Principle - and the Hallmark Channel is full of them - there is some smart aleck out there ready to offer a down-to-earth, pragmatic take on it which, while it won't sell Hallmark cards, makes us smile and think that the smart aleck version is probably closer to the truth than the original. One day at a time, and work smart.

In the case of the Daffodil Lady, as I'll call her, the journey was more important than the destination, so technology wasn't important to her. Doing the job by hand may have taken a lot longer, but she enjoyed that process. Take the Amish: they aren't missing anything our culture has to offer, and they're far happier than the rest of us will ever be, according to sociologists. One day, we're all going to wake up and realize that the Amish got it right. They're living Heaven-on-Earth now.

But back to the daffodils. You can't build your life on sappy, G-rated sentiment, like the Daffodil Principle, no matter how good it is. I know, it's wonderful for what it is. But instead of sap, how about truth? The Bible contains far better principles and examples, and you don't need sickeningly saccharin electronic music playing in the background to enjoy it. On the contrary, in the Bible, there's thunder, lightning, wind, rain, earthquakes, fire and blood - real life. God's version of The Daffodil Principle is the Red Sea parting and Jesus on the cross.

We don't live in a Hallmark world. We live in the world of the Bible. Life isn't about daffodil fields - and I love daffodils - it's about battle fields. If you want to translate those daffodil fields into something Biblical, take just one daffodil. Individually, I can see the hand of God in those gorgeous shapes and colors. In a crowd, all that gets lost - my apologies to William Wordsworth - although the crowd is by God's hand as well. I feel the same way about people. Give me one person and I can enjoy them and see God at work in them. Give me a crowd, and all that gets lost.

I can handle one daffodil and one human being on a battlefield. That tells me that life is real, life is dangerous, but God is with me in the battle. I can't handle a crowd of daffodils or a crowd of human beings because, frankly, for me, the beauty of the individual and his Creator get lost in the exploding bombs and the mob mentality.

There's something about an individual. There's something about how God works with an individual, how He shapes him and leads him through good times and bad into a legacy, which is really what The Daffodil Principle is about: leaving a legacy. Patience, perseverance, strength, endurance, fortitude, courage - regardless of what you call it - is the virtue required to leave a legacy of value and to accomplish what the Daffodil Lady had, which is a life worth living.

Having a vision, getting started on that vision, and sticking with that vision until it comes to pass - i.e., the truth behind the Daffodil Principle - is what life is all about, but something a society obsessed with instant gratification will never understand. It takes prayer, it takes faith, it takes perseverance. It's not just putting one foot in front of the other and taking one day at a time and hoping everything turns out all right. It's putting our feet where Christ put His, and taking whatever He leads us into - good, bad or indifferent. It's not just living for the day or the moment; it's living for all eternity. If we can impress that upon our children, we'll have left them something of real value.

So whether it's planting a field of daffodils, planting a church, or planting an idea in another person's mind, life is about planting and watering. It's about faithfulness.

If you have any of those qualities in your life, you have something to be thankful for, and so do those who know you. Continue to be faithful in what God has called you to do.

If you'd like to read more about patience, perseverance, strength, endurance, fortitude and courage, see my article on "The Heart of a Man: Courage, the Second Knightly Virtue."

If you'd like to experience more sappy stories like the Daffodil Principle, the Hallmark Channel is waiting. Enjoy! :)


Waitsel Smith, November 25, 2010

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[Send me yours and I'll include them on this page.]

Hey Waits, Nice article. Well written, my friend. Well … I'm off to mow the grass … one blade at a time. Love ya - Curt, Atlanta

OK to share full article on Facebook? Thanks. - Bruce

I truly believe in the Daffodil Principle. When I visited your page, I went back to the courage page, and was keyed in on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by John Howe for some reason. Thanks again for sharing. - Mike

I have waited until today/tonight to read this - loved it and so true. We should all heed your writing and thoughts. - Phyllis, North Carolina

Thanks for all your great comments!

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