Blogger: Mary Keeley
When I sat down to write this week’s blog, it struck me that it will be posted on May 1. May Day. Every year without fail May Day reminds me of a mostly abandoned practice in my grandmother’s day: May baskets. Random acts of kindness among the Christian writing community are as much a balm of sweet-scented spring as those traditional gifts, with one advantage. They can be delivered any time of year.
No bulleted lists today, although I love bulleted lists. Each point distilled to a cut-to-the-chase statement or how-to step. But that approach isn’t appropriate for today. This is a gentle topic.
There is evidence the May Day celebration of spring dates back to Roman times as a festival to worship Flora, the goddess of flowers. When the Romans moved in to occupy the British Isles, the May Day festival was absorbed into British culture. Because of the pagan connection, the Puritans frowned on the practice, and the holiday morphed to a children’s celebration of spring, with dancing around the maypole and making May baskets to hang on neighbors’ doorknobs.
In the United States the tradition and purpose for May baskets that I learned as a Girl Scout was a further modified version perhaps, thankfully again, by Puritan influence. A kinder, gentler tradition. We hung our hand-made paper baskets filled with daffodils and forsythia, narcissus, and hyacinths on neighbors’ doorknobs, rang the doorbell, and ran away. We didn’t hang them on just any door. Our surprises were meant to bring cheer to those neighbors who were old and housebound, sick, grieving a lost loved one, or struggling in some other way. It’s in this context that I want to celebrate May Day in our writing community.
Let’s ponder the characteristics of such random acts of kindness. On a fairly regular basis, writers comment about the warmth among authors and their willingness to share knowledge with each other. That sweet scent saturates our community. Celebrate it today. Add a few hyacinths to your mental basket.
Have you been surprised by the time and care a critique partner, writer friend, agent or editor took to review your manuscript and offer constructive advice? Sometimes that gift is given in the form of unpleasant news, but is delivered with honesty because the giver cares about you and your career. If so, you are blessed. Celebrate it and move forward with a teachable attitude. Add several sprigs of forsythia to your mental basket.
Can you count the times an author friend has lifted your spirits when you receive yet another rejection? Or when you are struggling with your complex plot and he or she takes time to listen attentively and offer a suggestion? Remember how it cheered you up and renewed your energy? Celebrate it and add five perky daffodils and three narcissus blooms to your basket.
Your basket runneth over with samples of God’s beautiful creation. Now go and be a flower in someone else’s basket. Don’t confine your fragrant scent within the Christian community. Spread it everywhere you see there is a need for cheer.
Because they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Here are two ideas to get you started. Weave these characteristics into the pages of your book. Check. You’re doing this already. Donate copies of your new book to schools and churches in needy areas without expecting anything in return. Check. You’ve done that several times. Teach a free workshop to a local writers group and critique participants opening pages at no charge. Pass along the fragrant offering.
I hope you have a May Day kind of day, week, year, life.
When have you encouraged another writer and been surprised by the amount of cheer it gave? In what additional ways have you received a blessing? Do you have a May Day tradition in your home?
May Day is a reminder for Christian writers to celebrate community. Click to Tweet.
Celebrate May Day by encouraging another writer. Click to Tweet.
What traits do our celebration of May Day and the Christian writing community share? @marygkeeley Click to Tweet.
The Christian writing community is such an encouraging group. I don’t know what I would do without the wonderful people I’ve met through ACFW. May Day is a perfect day to celebrate such a great group of people.
Julie, you are wonderful at this gathering of community for support!
I’m so glad you shared the history of May Day.
I appreciate this blog and all the help you share with us day after day. I definitely consider this a gift.
My critique group is another gift. I appreciate the time and work that goes into a good crit.
I have met so many wonderful people on my writing journey, and I hope I can be an encouragement to others.
Thanks for sharing!
I shared some more historical tidbits and memories on our blog today. But honestly, I love the flowers and acts of goodwill more than the focus on the worker’s holiday! Thanks for sharing Mary.
My life has been changed and blessed so much by the writing community.This is a delightful thought to send them mental flower baskets–like prayers of thankfulness. 🙂
You’re welcome, Jackie. It sounds like your basket is full. I’m sure you already encouraged others with your comment.
Thanks for this inspiring post about a tradition that deserves to be revived. I love the spirit of May Day.
I agree, Jenny. It’s a bygone tradition that would speak loudly in today’s culture.
I’ve never read about the history, thank you. I did the Maypole dance as a fourth grader!
The writing community has been one of the most supportive and generous group I have been a part of. I love gathering up ideas to give back through my writing. The options are really endless. I’ve been more active in living out my faith since I started writing than any other point in my life 🙂 Our words make a difference.
Lisa, I was thinking recently also about how it’s affected my faith walk. The last Harp & Bowl worship I attended at the ACFW in Indy was a touchpoint I go back to often.
Also, the urging from speakers I’ve listened to at conferences to speak the words God has given, not “hide under a bushel” as many introvert writers are wont to do, and to support others in realizing God’s will for their publishing work–well,if I never get published, it’s ALL kingdom work, and that’s okay.
So true, Lisa. When the writing prompts the living, it shows itself in your words, which can have a profound effect in a reader’s life.
May Day always stirs up warm memories for me. Growing up I was blessed to live on a farm, and my grandparents also had a home on the farm. Every May Day my grandma would sneak over and leave a basket of goodies by our door. It’s a tradition I miss, so I love your suggestion to make every day a May day. I think my grandma would be honored.
Brenda, what a sweet memory of your grandma. It’s nice to see those kindnesses being passed among our community of writers, too.
I completely spaced that this was May Day, Mary. My mother (who is now 80 years old) taught me the tradition, and I remember making a construction paper basket and filling it with flowers from our yard. I would hang it on the doorknob and ring the bell, then run away. My mother would pretend she didn’t know who left it, and, in my younger years, I actually believed I had fooled her.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas. I consider it an honor to be able to comment here on both your posts and others’ comments and to be a part of this community.
Meghan, it’s always good to see your comments. We do have a wonderful community here, don’t we.
I imagine your mother is a wise and fun mom.
Mary, thanks for sharing the history of May Day. As a girl, we made and danced around a May Pole each May first. My sisters and I would also weave pastel colored paper into those old green fruit baskets and make flowers to put in them and then give to neighbors. Such good memories.
I’ve been blessed in a multitude of ways by others’ encouragements. And those who have given me the courage to keep moving forward on this journey when I wanted to give up. THere have been people who helped me brainstorm characters and plots to make my story better.
I hope my words and suggestions have encouraged others. When someone asks for help, there is a blessing in being able to help. On the flip side, being the one asking for help and knowing that it’s okay to do that and then receive the help…..so wonderful.
Well said, Jeanne. Your comment here is an encouragement to anyone who reads it.
I find helping other writers to be a joy and to watch their stories bloom, to refer back to the flowers of Spring.
I’m glad you come here to share the joy, Larry.
I, too, have been blessed by the writing community. I’ve received much encouragement and many hours of honest discussion from published authors, and unpublished, from conference presenters and attendees and from blogs such as this one. I hope to be aid and abet (in a positive, uplifting way) other writers in their journey.
Thanks Mary for an uplifting May 1st post. Hoping everyday is your cup of tea!
Kathryn, how blessed you are to have so many sources from which to seek advice and encouragement. I’m uplifting my orange jasmine green tea to you.
I’ve been inspired and encouraged by several other writers, and I’m so blessed to have them in my life!
Your May basket looks full, Lindsay. Have a lovely May Day.
Yes, I remember the construction paper May baskets, but in Minnesota we had to fill them with paper flowers.
I’ve been thankful for May Day moments other writers have given me as my writing career germinates—generous, helpful, and honest. It’s so true, we’re blessed to be a blessing.
Ah yes, Minnesota spring comes a little late for May Day. I remember making paper flowers in school. They can be just as cheery, can’t they.
In high school my friend and I made May baskets (filled with candy) two years in a row and set them on our friends’ cars bright and early in the morning, before they left for school. It was fun watching them guess who had done it. We also brought a large bouquet of daffodils to a teacher’s house and rang the doorbell and snuck away. She was a unique individual that was constantly picked on by the student body. We wanted to let her know she was loved. To this day, she still doesn’t know who the bouquet was from.
I love your spin on the writer’s May basket celebration, Mary! I’ve been on the receiving end of many gifts in the writing community. So many people have touched my life and made all the difference on this journey–including a friend’s offer to recommend me to you. 🙂 I hope I can be a blessing to others.
Gabrielle, what a kind thing you did for that teacher. She may never forget it. The sharing of encouragement among those in this community really is quite special, isn’t it. Authors comment to me that they don’t experience this nearly as often in ABA.
I rarely paid much attention to May Day, as my poor mom is allergic to just about every flower that grows outside. AND inside. Looking at pollen made her sick. So we never did the “touch the flowers/touch your mom” thing.
But, May in Vancouver was Japanese Cherry Blossom time, and OH MY WORD they were gorgeous!! The whole city turned pink! And we had them in front of our house, so mom got to enjoy them through the window.
As for random acts of kindness? I try hard to encourage friends who are slogging through edits,when each word weighs more than the last, those who are querying until they’re cross eyed, and those who are just starting out.
I have been STUNNED by the graciousness and generosity of some fairly well known writers who have the unique ability to make me feel that by simply saying hello to them, I’ve somehow managed to improve their lives.
I know, right? Even BEFORE I mentioned I have an unlimited supply of Canadian chocolate!!
Jennifer, you are a true encourager, with or without your Canadian chocolate. Your last sentence is a shining example of the camaraderie shared in our writing community.
Last year, the Sunday school kids made May baskets to give to someone special. It never ceases to amaze me how giving other writers are. That’s why I try to do my best to give back and why most of my blogs don’t focus on my own writing. I have one that’s for me, but the others are to talk about the work of others.
Cheryl, this is especially true in the CBA community. There is no way to measure how much you are giving back to writers through your other blogs, but imagine you’re filling many writers’ baskets.
May always gives me hope. I am a spring lover anyway. Our church still makes may baskets full of goodies to deliver to the shut ins but I never knew the history of this wonderful little date before. Let’s have more May 1st’s!
Here, here, Jean. There are many May 1st’s in this community.
It so touched me to read this post. I was just thinking yesterday about sitting at the kitchen table as a child with my mom and my sister, making May baskets to leave at our neighbors’ doorsteps. Seems to have been such an innocent time in our lives. Miss my Mom.
What a lovely memory you have of your mom, Mary. There is need of these kindnesses in our world today.
This is a beautiful post, Mary! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and encouragement to pass on our appreciation to others.
“A joyful heart is good medicine.”Proverbs 17:22a
Michelle – That happens to be my son’s memory verse this week. 🙂
Michelle, I love that verse. Thanks for sharing its wisdom. A joyful heart is a great encouragement to others.
Carole Lehr Johnson
Mary, thanks for the history of May Day. I love history–guess that’s why I am so drawn to reading/writing historical fiction.
My fantastic friend, Morgan Tarpley, is such an encouraging critique partner. I don’t know what I would do without her. Other Christian writers have been a great encouragement to me as well and it is much appreciated. I have tried to pass on the encouragement to others in the writing community.
Isn’t it interesting that May Day is one little piece of history that morphed into something better and sweeter, thanks to the Puritans’ influence. Today, Christian authors can be that influence through your writing and the community.
What wonderful reminders, Mary–thank you! I’ve been so blessed and given-to as a newbie in the Christian writers community–I want to remember to do that for others as well.
Kiersti, I’m sure you’ll have many opportunities to pass blessings on to other writers in this community.
donnie and doodle
Dear Diary: It’s May 1st. “Be kind to your friends & strangers day.”
Today I didn’t chase Fluffy, the neighbors cat. I think she appreciated it.
(then again – maybe she enjoys the exercise)
Tonight, I’m going to try and not to wake up donnie – in the middle of night – so I can go outside and go no. 1. I just hope I can make it till morning.
doodle, Fluffy thanks you. I hope you don’t have to wake donnie tonight. That would be a thoughtful gift.
I recently had a cheerful-giver moment when I referred a friend to my agent, and it resulted in representation being offered. My excitement almost rivaled the day I got my own call a couple years ago. 🙂
Sarah, that is a perfect example of the Christian writing community. Authors are genuinely happy for each other’s successes.
I was truly blessed by the writer-friend who introduced me to writers conferences. I did not realize, prior to that, that beginning writers could attend such events. In fact, I’m not even sure that I knew that such conferences existed!
Writers are very generous. I do agree!
Yes they are, Carol. And so many of them are in the Christian community.
What a lovely reminder of May Day! Thank you, Mary.
I too was a Girl Scout and made May paper baskets that I filled with flowers for neighbors as a surprise. I had forgotten those wonderful “ring and run” adventures!
I recently sent a card to encourage a friend after the very unexpected death of her sister. I purposely waited for months, long after all other cards and calls would have ceased. I made my own photo card and wrote by hand words I hoped would bring tenderness and sweetness. She immediately contacted me.
Sometimes I think those handwritten words, expressed after prayer and not on a certain schedule, mean so much more.
I know it touches me when I am the one on the receiving end of such an act.
Kathy, what a sensitive, purposeful act of kindness. No doubt your friend understood the time and thoughtfulness you put into it, making it all the more meaningful.
Susi Robinson Rutz
Beautiful post, Mary. Reminds me of this bible verse I’ve often referred to in leading ministry: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” -2 Cor 2:15
Susi, that verse gives Christian authors powerful motivation to be that pleasing aroma of Christ through their writing. Thanks for adding it to the discussion.
I do recall receiving a May basket once as a child. Thanks for helping me remember.
Great May Day story, Mary. And I greatly admire your propensity to answer many of those who respond to you. Best wishes!