|Such a Perfect Tulip in my Front Yard|
I kill things a lot. Not like, animal things, but pretty much all plant things. I have two large peace lilies that I have managed to keep alive for about a decade, but they mostly survive on the force of my guilt. One was a gift at my grandfather’s funeral and the other was from the funeral of his sister, so every time they start turning brown and scraggly I water them… because how terrible would I be if I let my dead relatives’ funeral plants die? Have I no soul? Fortunately peace lilies are incredibly resilient so this plan is keeping them pitifully alive…so far.
But, basically, without strong guilt motivations I will just let stuff die. Because I am tired and moving seems too hard. Because I am poor at planning things ahead of time and “gardening” is not on my list even when I do make a plan. Because I am lazy. It is apparently not much of a priority so I don’t create time for it in my life. It feels wrong, though…
Some part of me, perhaps the part that loved visiting my grandparents’ farms as a kid, really wants to grow something. Both of my sisters-in-law are actually quite good at this despite their busy lives and little children and more than average levels of responsibility. They grow things to eat and lovely things to look at and I definitely do not.
The other day my brother’s wife offered me extra seeds she will have after her first spring planting in their new house. I told her I would happily accept the seeds, but that I had no idea what I was doing. She said, “First rule of gardening: if it grows, take the compliments. If it doesn’t, blame the weather.”
I thought of this wise advice when I pulled into my driveway today and saw this:
Tucked around my mailbox are 80 or so tulip bulbs that my sweet relative game me for Christmas. She and my niece snuck over to my house last fall and planted them while I was out of the house for the day. On Christmas, I opened an adorable picture of my 5-year-old niece posing with her handiwork and the information that, although they couldn’t guarantee anything would grow, they promised that they worked hard to plant something.
Earlier this week I was writing something else (I’m working on a book even though I’m terrified that it will turn out that I’ve spent months and months of my life working on the world’s least interesting pamphlet) and I was pondering the idea of investment in others.
None of us are going to live forever (depressing thought for the day) and the only thing of real value that we leave behind will be our impact on other people. And that impact, whatever it may be, is never the result of just one moment. There are days and weeks and months and years of words and touches and acts of kindness that go into forming how we influence those around us.
Right this minute, I am writing with little feet in my lap. As I sit here, snuggling a sick boy and his monkey, it is hard to imagine that this act will have a lasting impact on him. By itself, it probably wouldn’t. But if I add up the sick snuggles and the words I speak and the moments I offer him attention, they become not just a series of moments, but rather something alarmingly momentous to his life.
|A Boy and His Monkey|
Our relationships, like the lovely tulips planted by the sister-of-my-heart, need those first acts. They need us to dig and plant and cover with care in the hopes that something will bloom. Even if we have no idea if anything will come of it. Even though we cannot predict the weather in which our efforts will get the chance to grow.
Our children need us to think that way. So do our parents, siblings (both biological and by marriage), our friends, and spouses. What relationships have we forgotten to plant? Where have we been watering just enough to keep it from dying like my peace lilies and where have we just let it die (like every other green thing I plant).
I am so grateful for people in my life who have bothered to plant things in me and for me out of love and grace. I am a better person than I could ever be without them. Let me plant things that grow.