Planting Seeds and Smelling the Flowers

Planting seeds seems too cliché to become the subject of a blog post. Especially since lately in the neighborhood work I do, folks seem to be coming and going from my life, even more than I would have anticipated. I understand the nature of a transient neighborhood: eviction, relocation to share expenses with family or to follow work or the promise of work. These are on top of the things we all face: divorce, sickness, and even death. I understand, but I am not a fan of change, particularly the kind that includes goodbyes.

My discouragement has been met with the usual encouragements: • You never know what impact you have made on people. • You are planting seeds and you may never see the results. • You are part of something bigger than your own agenda. • There is a season for everything. • Just start over again. • Plant some more seeds.

Whatever.

She was barely a teen, smart and feisty and strong. She said what she thought, as colorfully as she thought. I know this, because she let me have it full force over my fence one day. A bit of a troublemaker, she didn’t shy away from a fight. She wasn’t a neighborhood favorite. Nor were her siblings who had frustrated some neighbors with their inconsiderate and childish shenanigans. The neighbors were rightly exasperated.

I was able to slowly build a relationship with her and her siblings and to see a different side of my new young friends. I began to sense that some deep hurt might have prompted the actions of this young girl. And then her story began to unfold. Thankfully, another neighbor became an additional safe place for her, one of honesty and encouragement. There was indeed some serious hurt. Allegations of abuse were finally answered with an arrest and an indictment. After the arrest came the scramble to find adequate childcare for the trio, and my neighbor and I were honored to be chosen by this young teen who said she trusted and liked us and wanted to stay with us. We couldn’t provide steady daytime care due to our own work schedules, but we were moved by the request.

There was also scrambling to find another home for this family to move into and to leave behind the fear and anger and sad memories that engulfed their small house. I knew it might be best, and that some people would even be happy to see the family leave the neighborhood, but I hoped they might stay a little longer. My neighbor and I wanted to listen and love some more. They thought about staying. Perhaps if they just made some changes to the house, it would feel safer or more comfortable.

The young teen had been given a crumpled, opened package of zinnia seeds, and as the family cleaned and rearranged things, hoping for a fresh start, she asked me to show her how to plant those seeds. We planted them together in an old pot sitting on the porch, and watered them. Seeds of hope. Of new beginnings. Of new life.

A couple of seeds were left in the wrinkled package, and my young neighbor asked me to take them home and plant them in my flower bed. I was in a hurry and unsure whether the seeds were even viable given the condition of the package, but felt compelled to fully receive this small gift, so I carefully planted the few seeds amidst some flowers growing in front of the Friendship House sign. Millie the dog has not been completely broken from digging in our beds, an additional obstacle these zinnias were going to have to overcome.

photoThis family moved while we were on vacation. No goodbyes. No new address. No well wishes. I don’t know if she is OK. I don’t know if there will be another neighbor who she can trust and who will listen. I don’t even know if she took her flower pot. I do know that while I was gone, my seeds sprouted and they are now a foot or so high and have blooms in shades of pink and purple and orange. They are beautiful.

They beckon me to remember that there are no small gifts, and sometimes you just have to plant a seed.