The mid-town area of New York City near Penn Station is especially congested. Under the sidewalk, the subways rumble uptown and down. Frantic commuters hurry to catch trains, sometimes pulling heavy suitcases. Skyscrapers dozens of stories high exert an imposing weight on the bustle below.
Flora’s favorite Catholic church was located a short distance from Penn Station. Walking the five blocks from Flora’s residence to church, we passed fast-food restaurants, shoe stores, and cafés. When we entered the sanctuary, the silent, vaulted space provided refreshing relief from the noise outside.
Looking closer, I saw that Flora was contemplating the subway grates. What was she doing? I wondered. There, growing tentatively amidst the interlocking mesh, I saw tiny flowers. Flora was kneeling in the middle of the busy sidewalk, talking to them!
“How beautiful you are,” she said happily. “Take good care, okay, my sweets?” With each word of joy, the flowers seemed to grow brighter, to lift themselves a little, as if enlivened by Flora’s love.
They’re talking back to her! I thought.
Amidst the cacophony, Flora spoke sweetly to the blossoms, her presence creating a perfect stillness. It reminded me of a movie, when the camera zooms in on one small detail and everything else falls away. I watched Flora. She was so connected to life. Every living thing is precious to her, no matter how infinitesimal. As she rose slowly from the sidewalk, I realized that Flora really was one of a kind. She was very small, but she was very big.