Even a Blade of Grass
By Wiebke KenShin Andersen
Many years ago, I read this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “There is not a single blade of grass that does not concern me.” It moved me that someone was willing to express their deep care for a blade of grass, something that many consider insignificant. Years ago, I perceived this level of care and generosity as something unattainable.
My early impressions of generosity were formed on the farm where I grew up. Neighboring farmers sometimes helped us with the harvest in the summer, and, in return, in the evenings a long table was set in the kitchen and my mother prepared a delicious meal. Eating together at the end of a hard work day is one of the best memories of my childhood. I still remember that I found it very generous of my mother that she offered a meal in addition to the work agreement.
I also remember when my father, who was usually emotionally unapproachable, invited a foster child from our village to visit the farm to learn to milk a cow and drive a tractor. I was surprised that my father would do something for no direct gain, donating his time in this way. But that day I saw my father exuberant, serene, and even a little happy.
Through Buddhist practice I realized much later that no matter what happens, there is always something in return when one is generous, due to the law of karma, of cause and effect. The effect simply does not always take place in the moment and not in a linear way. When I act with generosity, often I do not know when or how the effect will take place. Freedom in giving is when I give simply to give. And yet it may be that I start at the point where I still have expectations of something in return. That's fine. Even such giving is good, not free, but good.
It’s said that those who cannot receive cannot truly give. I also want to look at this: How am I with receiving what is given? How am I at asking for help? I want to remember that giving and receiving can bring about joy, and yet joy is not always associated. I find a more neutral attitude to be more liberating: I give just to give. Sometimes it feels great, sometimes neutral, and sometimes it feels rather awkward. All these experiences have their place.
For example, in the spring of this year I fostered two tiny kittens for a local cat shelter. I had to bottle-feed them for about 5 weeks every 3 hours. Some nights brought me to the limit of my patience and resilience where I felt that I could strangle these sweet kittens. It was uncomfortable to admit these feelings and thoughts. But through practice I’ve learned that by deeply feeling and looking, change becomes possible. So, I made an effort to not deny these thoughts and feelings.
Caring for cats has become an essential part of my life and practice. It even shows my evolution in Buddhist practice, especially the point that interconnectedness can develop. Working with cats has allowed me not to act so much from my head but that my decisions and my contact can come from a more intuitive place within me. That's why this work appeals to me.
So now a blade of grass does actually concern me.