A Garland of Marigolds and a Heart Full of Prayer for Nepal

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‘After hearing about the recent earthquakes, I found myself glancing at these flowers, wondering what sort gift I might have to offer in return.’

Since 2001, I’ve kept a garland of dried marigolds tucked away in a small ceramic pot I bought during my first trip to Nepal, a lasting reminder of the generosity of a people who have little to spare but the world to give.

I had been to Third World countries before, but never had I seen poverty like I saw when I arrived in Kathmandu. Mile after mile of partially paved roads littered with potholes. Block after block of toppled buildings. A veil of smog obscuring the surrounding mountains. And yet most everyone I met seemed utterly content. Engaged. Attentive. Even happy.

A few days later my traveling companion and I met up with some friends and flew to Pokhara, about 130 miles west, where we would begin our trek into the nearby Himalayas. It was here that I was given the garland of marigolds that, to this day, I keep in a pot on a shelf near my desk at home — a token of hospitality presented to each member of our group by our gracious hosts.

Back then, of course, they weren’t the least bit dry but wonderfully vibrant, full of life — if a bit pungent. And as they were placed around my neck, I remember thinking to myself what a touching gift this was — obviously not the least bit extravagant but undoubtedly sincere, meaningful. It was as if I’d just been given something I wasn’t even aware I needed or wanted, which made it all the more precious.

Obviously I decided to keep them, first in a small bag, then in a safe corner of my luggage where they wouldn’t get crushed, then in a pot on a shelf near my desk at home.

After hearing about the recent earthquakes, I found myself glancing at these flowers, as I often do, resting just beneath the rim of the pot, wondering what sort gift I might have to offer in return. And the first and only word that comes to mind is prayer.

To some this may seem even less valuable, less practical, than a strand of flowers. And yet I remembered what it felt like to have someone place those flowers around my neck. What an impression that made, what an uplift I felt. Not only then, but every day since.

And so in return for all that the people of Nepal have given me, I offer my prayer, along with the certainty that this prayer, as well as the prayers of so many millions around the world, will be heard and felt.

I pray to know that nothing can separate anyone from God’s embrace.

I pray to know that “the still small voice” that brought such an assurance of God’s love to the prophet Elijah following a terrifying earthquake so many years ago remains to this day to inspire, to guide, to support and to protect every effort to care for those in need.

And I pray to know that, in the words of Mary Baker Eddy, “thoughts winged with peace and love breathe a silent benediction over all the earth, cooperate with the divine power, and brood unconsciously o’er the work of [God’s] hand.”

It is this prayer that I offer, and this prayer that I will keep, along with a garland of dried marigolds, in a pot on a shelf near my desk — and near my heart — at home.

Eric Nelson writes each week on the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Read similar columns on his website and follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.

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