People who know me well know I have a brown thumb. Oh, they’re nice and point out a rogue plant that thrives despite its bad luck to be found in my yard, but we all know that plants grow in spite of me, not because of me. One big problem: I forget to water! But every once in a while, I get a plant I know what to do with. Take my basil, for example. Every spring and summer I relish having a basil plant in my kitchen window and I feel so cool plucking off those fragrant leaves to use in my cooking.
Knowing that basil needs daily water, I couldn’t bear to let it die when we went away for a week, so I did what any devoted foodie would do: I took it with us. I packed it in a pitcher, tucked it in the back of the van when no one was looking and off we went. A few hours down the road, my oldest son finally said, “What is the awful smell? It smells like socks and dog!!” The rest of the family admitted they suffered too. I had to confess. Meekly. “It’s my basil. It’s need watering every day!” They erupted. WHO TAKES BASIL ON A VACATION???? Ugh, I do – knowing that our dinners are going to be so much tastier because of it. That excuse didn’t fly – but the basil almost did right out the window.
Lately, I’ve been watering plants of a different sort. These are plants I know exactly what to do with. Despite yearly working with incredibly talented and wonderful kids, every few years or so someone comes along that stands out. I notice something in them that is just a little seed, but I see the opportunity to water it. Usually detected at age 14 or 15, the seed has been lying latent. But it’s there. It’s fun to see it peeking out. So I nudge the dirt, wonder about its placement, offer it some sunshine and know, just know that someday God will make something strong and fragrant out of it. I might be the only one for awhile who sees it. But I’ll keep my eye on it- watering it every day I can.
I’m so thankful that my former students are police officers, teachers, pastors, businessmen, moms, bankers, and pilots. Many of them didn’t think they’d be able to accomplish 8th grade much less what they’ve done now. A few of them revealed their dream to me as a teenager and I always told them, “You’ll be great at that!” And now, they are. These kids sometimes have no idea what their target is, so I boldly tell them! Even if its’ just being faithful to the tasks in front of them each day.
Anyone who’s a talented gardener knows that attention, sun and water are the keys to healthy plants. I’m not sure why I can’t get it right with green things, but I love to do that with kids. Usually it just takes a keen eye, an awareness of the Spirit’s nudge and a big dose of encouragement. If I’m truly hearing from the Spirit, I don’t have to worry, He’ll take care of it. If my ‘plant’ ever smells like socks and dog, well, that’s part of the growing process too, but I know, just know that someday, they’ll be part of a beautiful dish and everyone who tastes it will say, this is so much better because you are here! And all it took was a little watering.