A few weeks ago, my six-year-old and I planted seeds in paper cups.
We stuck the paper cups outside and committed to watering them. Daily, ish.
With such a vague “commitment,” we watered them every few days. In the intense heat of August in SoCal, the seeds failed not only to thrive, but to show even the merest hints of growth.
Last weekend, my six-year-old and I planted new seeds in paper cups.
We planted green bean, watermelon, and tomato seeds. We committed to watering these each and every evening.
Within a couple of days (!), we saw the first bits of green (bean) poking up out of the dirt. I’m not sure which of us was more excited, so I’ll say we were both so excited, we’ve come back almost hourly to check for any new signs of growth.
This time around, I think we’ve overwatered; still, I don’t yet have enough muscle memory to tell for sure.
What I can say is that, despite our every noobish mistake, four green bean cups and one watermelon cup have shown signs of life. With seeds sprouting being such an ordinary fact of life over the millennia leading to now, this is still, somehow, astonishing my whole household!
A few times over, I’ve planted a different kind of seed this early morning.
I’d begun reading on public and global health last April. In the hubbub of trying to feed and shelter a family in SoCal, my passion for these subjects took a back burner.
Since March of this year, largely homebound with my job, my husband, and two children, I’ve traded in three+ hours of driving daily (ugh, how did that ever seem reasonable?!), for at least a few minutes of reading on global health. This reading has simultaneously inspired and saddened me.
It’s inspired me because: Holy cow, there are people out there doing this work? Every day? For decades, now, calling it not “service” but “kinship” and “accompaniment”?! Amazing! How lucky am I, to be part of this world?!
It’s saddened me for reasons a little more complicated to explain.
Until this morning, I’ve assumed that COVID has constrained me from accompaniment I might otherwise have begun
Unable to sleep this very early morning, that assumption seemed highly suspect: “Umm, wait, there’s literally nothing I can do but read right now, because COVID? Okay, then? Nope.”
So I pulled up a list of organizations I’d written down from Paul Farmer et al’s Reimagining Global Health. I visited their websites one by one, signing up for mailing lists or volunteer work as appropriate by the site.
On one, I wrote that “my own personal history–growing up in deep poverty and losing my mom to a combination of poverty, lack of adequate access to health care, and cancer” is inspiring me to “look for opportunities to accompany in the time of COVID.”
On another, I wrote that I was “moved to act by having ‘lost my mom to cancer (and poverty).’”
Am I changing the world outside me by submitting these forms? By planting these little seeds in little paper cups? Doubtful.
Am I changing the world within me by submitting these forms? By planting these little seeds in little paper cups? Indubitably.
My mom cannot be brought back to life. She’s physically gone from this world, irrevocably.
But other people’s moms, still alive today? They can be kept in this world, enabled to nurture themselves, their children, their families, and their communities by their presence today, tomorrow, next year.
I can’t bring my mom back. That’s not the point. The point is, I can plant little seeds, never knowing which will, for sure, take root,
but knowing, for sure, that the seed that’s never planted can never possibly take root.
So: Do I cast stones on social media and call that planting, or do I
plant some seeds today, trusting that in so doing
I better learn not only how to plant seeds …
but how to water them, and learn to
accompany them in their own
reaching for the sun?