|Planting Day 2011|
If my thumb had a color, it would be black. Some families have black sheep, but in my family I am the black thumb. Gardening runs in my blood, yet I absolutely stink at it.
My Mee Ma and Daddy Bill had a garden that could feed an army. They had trees laden with fruit, and a field of Iris that would make you weep when they were in bloom from their beauty. Every year my parents’ garden is meticulously nurtured and cared for by my mom and dad. It’s overflow of harvest is shared with neighbors. My mother’s rose garden should be featured in Southern Living. It is glorious.
And then, there is my garden. Dried up, neglected, with the only successful growth consisting of weeds.
I should accept defeat. Every year I attempt a garden and yet I have never had one that I could brag about. I have never had enough harvest to share. I am a gardening failure.
The problem is I LOVE gardening. I obsessively start planning my summer garden in the winter and count the days until the last frost. I spend hours wandering around garden centers (my happy place) and never leave empty handed. I draw out schematics so that I can fit the most in the smallest space. I mark out our planting day on the family calendar so we can have all hands on deck and I am giddy when that day comes. We get dirty and sweaty and when the garden is finally in, we celebrate and I daydream that this will be the year that I earn my place in our Family Gardening Hall of Fame. One can hope, right?
Recently I saw that the gardening gene must have skipped a generation.
These reminders kick me in the stomach. I can’t believe that 2 years ago Mark was here, vibrant, strong, beautiful. He was so determined to go live in Nicaragua that summer. And we were insistent that if he went he would offer the people there something of value. We didn’t want him to be one more American hanging out for the summer. So he asked what they needed and they needed a greenhouse. The fundraising was a daunting task for a teenager, but by the time he left for Nicaragua, he had accomplished it.
He built the greenhouse. He planted seedlings. He never saw the reward for his labor.
In June I joined the Norfolk Christian missions trip to Nicaragua. I had an afternoon off and we decided to go visit the orphanage that Mark had lived at when he spent part of his summer in 2013. Knowing how harsh the storms can be there, and how limited the resources are, I really didn't even expect the greenhouse Mark helped built to still be standing. But Isaac, the house parent of the boys living in the Posada house (where Mark stayed) was eager to show me Mark's work and the teenage boys followed us in a pack eager to see our reaction. I prepared myself for the possibility that it might be abandoned, neglected and weedy...like my gardening failures.
But no. As Isaac showed me, it was flourishing. Packed so full of tomato plants I could hardly walk in it. Beautiful, vibrant and strong plants that would nourish the children living there and could potentially be a source of income.
Mark built the greenhouse. He planted seedlings. He never saw the reward for his labor. But I have.
The pride on the faces of the Posada boys was glorious. Boys who have been abandoned and neglected, who would have no real future, no real training, no employable skills, were beaming with hope. The future was on their faces. That is the real harvest. And they shared that hope with me. I am quite certain that when Mark was pouring concrete and digging holes to build the greenhouse he had no idea what the harvest would look like. No idea that it would be so much more than growing tomato plants...it would be all about growing people.
"I want to love deliberately. Selfless love makes incredible things happen." Mark Rodriguez
God, today I pray Mark's prayer. "Teach me how to love."