A little over a year ago, after twelve years of living in the same town, my husband decided he had enough of the long commute from the far western suburb where we lived to the downtown city area where his job was located. His job is stressful and keeps him busy nearly seven days a week–there isn’t much time that he is home that he isn’t working. Spending an hour one way in commute time was adding to his stress, not to mention the upkeep that comes with a house. In his case, it was cutting the lawn that he dreaded. For many years I would cut at least part of it for him, but as my health worsened, I found I was unable to continue doing that. When our last child flew from the nest, we moved to a townhome community twelve miles or so from where he has to travel for work each day. I have written before about how difficult that move has been for me. I can’t say that I love where we live. There are nice things about it for sure, but I miss having our own place, an attached garage, a clothesline to hang out laundry on a breezy summer day, and most of all, I miss my garden. This morning, as I made my breakfast salad, I was thinking about how I used to grow beautiful romaine lettuce. I would water and weed and do everything in my power to take care of the plants. It paid off with not only fresh, pesticide free lettuce, but also tomatoes that were turned into salsa, green peppers used for seasoning sloppy joes, zucchini that made delicious chocolate zucchini bread, green beans that were frozen and enjoyed throughout the year, and one year, even a pumpkin that made it into my garden. I always dreamed of having a farm. I envisioned growing food, having chickens that would provide eggs, and goats that would provide milk (and friendship!). I still dream about those things, although I have told myself I must come to terms with the fact that those dreams will never come true. If I dwell on that fact, I get very sad though.
This morning, as the sun shone brightly and the weather forecast predicted highs in the 90’s, I was thinking about my garden. A garden is a fragile thing. Plants have different needs, and if those needs aren’t met, the plant will most certainly perish. When I taught elementary school, I taught my students that plants need water, sunshine, and dirt in order to grow. We did the typical elementary school experiment of depriving a plant of one of those necessities so the students could see how important each of those things were. If you place a seed on the sidewalk, it will not grow. It doesn’t matter how much you water it or how much sunshine it receives. Cement is not the vehicle that a sprouting seed thrives in. Likewise, A seed placed in the most beautiful organic soil will not grow if it doesn’t get water. There has to be a balance of just the right conditions for a seed to turn into what it is meant to be, whether that be luscious green lettuce or a beautiful red carnation.
As I thought about gardens and seeds today, I thought about the ways a human being is similar to a seed. A human baby needs certain conditions to be met in order to thrive. A baby needs food. A baby needs shelter from harsh elements. A baby needs human touch. Yes, a baby can live without this last one, but in order for an infant to thrive and develop appropriately, human contact is needed. It is why nurses place a newborn baby on his or her mommy’s chest right after birth. The bonding process is so critical to that infant’s development. Needs don’t go away once a baby gets bigger. A child, a teenager, and an adult all still have needs that must be met in order for health to be maintained. Those needs vary in degree from person to person. My mom needed, and still needs, social interaction in order to avoid feeling depressed. My dad was on the opposite side of the pendulum. Social gatherings were not something he needed nor enjoyed, although he had a need to feel like he was contributing somehow. He found his satisfaction in his family and in his work that provided for them. Deprived of needs, a human being can have all sorts of problems ranging from minor to life threatening.
As a Christian, one thing I have heard said quite often is that we need one another–we need community. I don’t really disagree with that, although given the differences among people, I believe some need more community than others. But, I do think all need community to some degree. True community can be hard to find for the “normal” person. For a person like me, who wakes each morning battling several beasts, it can be downright impossible. I have found that most people really don’t want to walk with you through dark times that drag on for too long, at least if those dark times are invisible to all but the one who suffers from them. Someone diagnosed with cancer or someone who was injured in a car accident has a better chance of those around them sticking with them through the hard times. Those things, and the treatments of them, cause visible wounds that others can relate to. An invisible illness, though, causes pain that others cannot see. And, referencing my previous entry about the response one gets who suffers from depression, those who suffer from emotional pain especially find the road to be very lonely. When that storm lingers much longer than most people are willing to ride out, most bail and look for brighter skies with others who don’t walk around with a dark cloud over their heads.
A plant that flourishes in shade will not survive complete darkness. An introvert who may not need as much community as others still needs some. A seed kept entirely in the dark will die because it did not get enough sun.