What could you accomplish with one arm, twelve lily plants and a plot of marshland beside the Anacostia River? Most of us would see a recipe for Zika virus and give up.
Where others saw a worthless wetland…
Where others saw a handicap…
Where others saw a frivolous past time…
Civil War veteran Walter Shaw saw his future. He had hung on to his lily plants through a decade of rentals and relatives before buying 30 acres from his wife’s parents and with his daughter, Helen Fowler, turned a hobby into a thriving business from 1880 – 1938 that is now the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast D.C. and a park open to the public for future generations to enjoy.
Can you imagine that first summer morning that he and Helen went out to the old ice pond that Walter had dredged for his plants and saw the waxy lilies blooming in the sun?
But that was just the beginning. Day after day, year after year, the Shaws improved their water gardens and added other varieties; lotus, tropical lilies and even varieties they developed themselves. One pond became 8 acres of ponds. They were renowned for their lilies and Helen Shaw Fowler would become a world diplomat for water gardening. She was instrumental in saving the property from dredgers and helped lobby Congress to buy the property and establish the only aquatic garden in the National Park system.
She is seen at the display in the Visitor’s center standing beside a truck where it claims she was the first D.C. woman to be given a truck driver’s license.
The Shaws didn’t let convention define them. They did what they loved and they did it well.
It doesn’t have to be an exotic flower that makes you stand out, but what will it be?
If we settle for a life that gets by, but never dare to explore those talents and interests unique to us, will we find ourselves with regrets?
My brother passed away suddenly two years ago. He was 54. While I experienced a deep grief like never before, I know my brother died doing what he loved. He had been at the motorcycle track and raced that morning. He had lunch and laughter with friends and was gearing up for the afternoon event when he experienced a massive heart attack and could not be revived. Knowing he lived his passion made all the difference for his family and friends. He left a legacy of motorcycle love behind him.
Sometimes we feel like we will get to what we love later down the road. But do we have that luxury? Even if it’s five minutes a day, I encourage you to purpose to do what you love.
We will not be remembered for what we amassed and probably not for what we did in this lifetime, but we will be remembered for what and who we loved.
I would love to hear what you do with this challenge. Feel free to leave a comment on the home page. And for more info, go to Kenilworth Gardens
"Teach us to number our days
that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12