“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”— Liberty Hyde Bailey
John arrived early in the morning and worked well into the late afternoon. Despite the heat and a few wounds along the way, our new friend just kept pulling weeds here and there, until finally, our flower bed looked the way it had looked before — like someone cared. With too many commitments on my plate, I had only good intentions, but my friend helped the plants to thrive because he expended effort that I was unable to give them. Bailey is right — a garden requires patient labor and attention. Relationships require that, too, and from plants, we can learn many simple life lessons.
Before we had children, I would spend a lot of time caring for plants. I loved that I could read books on what had worked well for other plant owners regarding soil, light, water, and food, and I had great success in following their advice. I would talk to the plants, probably because I felt like they were alive, and they flourished. Then, we had children. Unlike books on plants, books about raising children were not all of the same school of thought. Some books said to feed them solids early, some said to wait a long time. Some books recommended harsh punishment for any show of defiance, while other authors suggested a more lenient stance. I ended up raising my children as I sometimes did my plants — using a lot of trial and error.
When I was working with my plants, I discovered quickly that there was not one method that worked for all varieties. They needed different amounts of light, different amounts of water, different kinds of soil, and even different levels of acidity in their food. It was a lot of labor on my end to help them thrive, and the rewards were worth it. Sure enough, raising children was again a lot like growing healthy plants. Both boys needed sunlight, fresh air, food, water, and exercise, but the amounts they needed were very different. The first child and the second child were as different as a cactus and a rose bush are in what they need. Anyone nodding their head?
As often happens, children grow into adults, and few things change when it comes to what an adult needs to be healthy.
- Fertile Soil — Both plants and people need good earth in which to grow. Some plants need a sandier soil, and some people do, too. Some people thrive on a beach and others in the mountains.
- Fresh Air — Bad air can cause breathing difficulties in people and sickly-looking plants.
- Sunlight — Some plants need full sun, while others need more shade. People are just that way. More light is needed by some to help fight off depression, while others don’t do well in sunlight, and might even be allergic to it. You just can’t put (or view) all people in the same light.
- Clean Water — 1.8 million people die each year because of contaminated water. Animals, plants, and people all need fresh water to survive.
- Toxins — Some people find it necessary to use toxic chemicals to control weeds in their gardens and yards, while other people have discovered it is more important to avoid exposing the earth and people to those same chemicals. People are at great risk when they are exposed to toxic substances and to toxic people for very long — you know, people who are manipulative, mean-spirited, or abusive.
- Love — Plants, animals, and people need love. Maybe it’s as simple as wiping the dust off of houseplant leaves or playing some good music for the greenhouse crops, but plants respond to care. People need to be shown love, too, and people (especially those who live alone) are in need of a smile, a hug, a little conversation, and respect.
John has come back to our house a couple of times to help me in my efforts to let the flower bed know how much we care. It has responded well to the time and effort of labor. Chances are, all of us need someone to help us every now and then, whether it is with the people in our lives or the plants and animals. We just can’t thrive alone, and this might be just the time for you to stop treating all of the people in your life or in your employ as if they all need the same thing. Some are a bit like roses and need more nurturing, while others are more akin to succulents that require a hands-off approach. Know your plants and know your people, and enjoy the fruits of your labor and attention.