The Secret Behind the Garden

I’ll start this post with somewhat of a confessional. My mom, an avid reader and fan of The Secret Garden, exposed me to the story at a young age by means of one of the film adaptations. I loved it, and as you’ll see, it made a lasting impact on me. Never keen on old-fashioned English, however, I didn’t read the book until this summer. Yes, even this author will sometimes skip the book and watch the movie!

As embarrassed as I am to admit to reading a childhood classic for the first time as an adult, I gleaned a lot from my long-overdue review. It both unleashed the lessons I drew from it years ago and fostered some new ones. I hope I don’t give away any spoilers here…but the novel is 110 years old!

My mom used the story to motivate me not to give in to my disability. In the plot, Colin Craven simply assumes he’s ill, and it cripples him both physically and emotionally. He drives people away from him because of his bitter demeanor, and he refuses to move around for fear of worsening the hump on his back—which isn’t even there. His lack of exercise causes atrophy in his muscles, enhancing his handicap that much more.

Mom always honed in on this example with me. From a very young age, I’ve been a doer despite my limitations. Once, my dad set out to follow me around for a day, but he only lasted a couple of hours. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m always impelled to do the right thing for my body. My parents and therapists instructed me to do exercises that make me groan to this day. Nonetheless, Colin’s reluctant and stubborn ways, as well as how he later benefitted from physical activity, have stuck with me and refrained me from wallowing in my sorrow over my difficulties.

As I read further, I remembered a sentiment I often had when watching the movie in my early days. I thoroughly enjoyed Colin’s interaction with Mary and Dickon, two kids who overlooked his challenges and broke him out of the box in which he placed himself. I haven’t viewed the movie we liked in a long time, but I still snicker when I think about a scene where Mary’s almost hostilely forcing Colin to get out of bed.

Again, I never quite needed that firm of stimulus to get going, but I yearned to have friends like that in my life, apart from my wonderful family. My Cerebral Palsy did impede my social status, and I used to wonder if I’d ever meet people like Mary and Dickon.

As you can learn in My Story, I found many such kind-hearted individuals. I’ve discussed the big events they did as a group, like rooting me on during my weekly hundred-meter “dashes” and having me lead them out before a football game, all of which surely contributed to my success…and pushed me out of my comfort zone.

But the simpler experiences of a select few that I’ve chosen to keep private have impacted me more than they’ll ever understand. Like Mary and Dickon helping Colin in the garden, they took the time when not many were watching to show me my potential and worth, one even taking my side during my therapy sessions.

Lastly, I drew a lesson that could only be reaped from the book itself. After Colin comes to appreciate the advantages of leaving behind his rigid shell, he realizes the power of his thoughts and attitude. When he just focused on his weaknesses and fears, he closed himself off to the joys his life could bring. Once he allowed Mary and Dickon to avail him to the outside world, however, his woes took the backseat to his newfound happiness. As the book beautifully put it:

“Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”

The profound quote applies to all of us, especially amidst the challenges of these past two years. No matter what circumstances we may face, the way we view them will govern the outcome we encounter. Concentrating on the downsides will add to our burden, whereas looking at the positives will lighten it. Like Colin, we need help from one another, but if we work together, we can plant a bright, luscious garden that will stand up to any drought.

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