I grew up in a rural town in Western Massachusetts, where a large patch of bee balm featured prominently in our garden each summer. One day an elderly couple, complete strangers, stopped their car to ask my father what the fiery red blooms in the garden were.
“It’s bee balm, a perennial. Would you like some?”
He dug up a clump for the pair to take to their summer home at the edge of town.
A few days later, the couple reappeared with a box of children’s books. They were retired teachers, who had noticed my siblings and me playing in the yard.
“We have collected so many books over the years, and since we are retired, we don’t need them. Would your children like some?” they asked my father.
That summer, and for many summers thereafter, the couple brought boxes of books of a variety of genres. Some were almost new; some were gently worn. Each box was a thoughtful gift.
The sight of bee balm might bring thoughts of insects, bright flower petals in a salad, or perhaps herbal tea to most people.