Saved by Blackberries


Every day I checked the outdoor thermometer. If the temperature was halfway bearable, I bundled up my baby, put her in the stroller, and went for a walk. I was desperately looking for signs of spring. Realizing that I was rapidly sinking in the mire of depression, I hoped the changes of spring would work a change in me, in my attitude. I prayed as I walked. I begged for help. I tried to think of ways to lift myself out of the dreariness I felt.

Blackberries bloom early here in Missouri. The creamy white flowers on the low-lying dewberries bloom even earlier. They were a sign I especially wished for. I thought their promise of summer fruit and summer fun might perk me up.

When first I walked, I saw a few blooms, then many. Later there were little green berries and also white buds. They did not excite me, but I doggedly continued my excursions. Finally, the berries were ready to pick. I sighed. My depression was not lifting. Every day it seemed more and more to me that I was doing nothing worthwhile with my life.

I did not know where to turn for help. I had been praying all along, but my prayers were so full of self-pity that I was incapable of hearing any answer to my pleas.

Then, one day while I was walking and praying, I recalled reading somewhere that when life does not give to you, it is time to start giving of yourself. I remembered when my dad was in the hospital, damaged from both a serious automobile accident and a heart attack. My heart was full of love for him, but I had a little one at home so I could not take turns sitting with him at the hospital. I had turned to prayer then, too, to ask the Lord what I could do, how I could give of myself.

I finally realized that I could, without neglecting my baby, cook food to take to mom at the hospital. She could eat while watching the baby as I visited with dad.

So every day I fixed a hot, home-cooked meal, packed it into the cooler, and then took it and the baby to the hospital. It was good therapy for mom to get out of the intensive-care ward and down to visit with her little granddaughter. It was good therapy for me, too. I began to take a renewed interest in cooking.

One day I baked mom a berry pie because I knew she loved them. As I told dad about it, I realized I could bake one for him, even though it was not on his diet, if I froze it for later. This showed him that we did expect him to come home, and it gave him something to look forward to.

Over the summer, I had picked every type of berry I could find, and I bought other types. I got neighbors and friends involved in finding berries for me. I told dad about each pie. I could not tell whether he was interested or not, yet my enthusiasm increased over the summer as I searched for yet another fresh fruit to add to my stockpile.

But this year, I couldn’t seem to raise the same enthusiasm. Dejectedly, I picked my first berries of the season, only to let the berries sit until they were nearly spoiled. When I finally prepared them, I remarked to my husband that I could not justify the time and effort I had put into them, and I surely was not going to pick any more. I complained about the heat, the stains, the scratches, the rash I invariably got. It was only when his face fell that I realized I had really picked them for him, not me.

The next day a man came with his son to till a late garden for us. I stood in my air-conditioned house, watching him toiling in the heat I had complained about. I wanted to thank him by doing something special for him, something money could not buy. I walked outside and asked his son if they liked blackberries. He said, yes, that when they had them they always intended to make jelly but the berries always got eaten first.

Suddenly I felt the first spark of enthusiasm I had felt for a long time. Picking up my berry bucket, I picked every berry I could find on the place for them.

A few days later a neighbor had a rummage sale. She offered to sell an item for me so I would not have to stand out in the heat. How could I repay her for her labor of love? I picked her two quarts of berries.

Since then, I have picked berries for others who have needed some special little recognition. Each time I pick the berries, it seems hotter. This may be the hottest summer we have had in years. But the Savior told us that he who gives away his life will find it, and my blackberries are teaching me that lesson again and again.

I was right. Those berries are not worth picking just for me. But they are worth picking to give away.

[illustration] Illustrated by Don Seegmiller

Marty Smith, mother of two children, teaches Sunday School in her Carthage, Missouri, ward.