While the rest of the world was worried about making their way to the grocery stores to stock up on their life’s essentials, I found myself panicking about a different, but similar, need. It was imperative that my family had enough food on hand to feed us, but it wasn’t the food we would eat over the next several days or weeks that had be stressed quite yet, Instead, I found a sense of worry bubble from within about the food I had planned on gathering this summer, and not from a grocery store, but from our farm.
For the last decade, my husband and I have perfected the backyard garden. What first started out as a 12’ x 12’ space to piddle in evolved into a garden retreat that took about a third of our previous home’s backyard space. From strawberries to soybeans … lettuce to tomatoes … sweet potatoes to peppers … we were used to yielding a large crop that allowed us the ability to share with other and to can for future use. We’d become reliant on this annual yield; so much so that we never purchase salsa, diced tomatoes and pasta sauce anymore!
When our community started limiting gatherings, I knew that it meant that the annual plant sale I attended each year would likely be impacted. Most people wouldn’t see that as problematic, but at that sale each year I purchase my garden “transplants” — the little starter plants that have been growing indoors for quite some time before they are ready to brave the elements. A sweet man that lives farther out in the county and his many children have become like family to us. The thought of not seeing him to purchase our necessary garden transplants saddened me.
I looked everywhere for his contact information, but it was as if only I knew he existed. No one knew how to reach him or even knew his name. My husband visited the gas station he sometimes sells at, but no one had any contact information. He attended the county’s plant sale every year, but with no plant sale would come no transplants to purchase. If I wanted some tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables this year, I was going to have to learn how to grow my own starters. So, I put on some makeup (because, let’s be honest, most of us aren’t even tackling that right now!) and made the trek to Lowe’s to pick up what I needed to begin.
My intention was to be like Sonic, a new character my kids had come to love thanks to the latest movie release. I was going to make this trip a quick one — picking up seeds, soil, biodegradable pots, trays and indoor grow lights — getting in and out as fast as possible. After collecting my coveted items, I found the nearest cashier. The lady I approached was chatting with another employee who had already clocked out and heading home. My presence interrupted their discussion for a brief moment, and as the cashier used the scanner to take inventory of my selections, the three of us began a conversation about our community’s new “normal” and how that was impacting the people that they had met that day.
Having worked in retail before, I knew what they were going to say before they shared a single thought. Worry and fear can cause people to act in ways that they normally wouldn’t. It can bring out the best and the worst of people. As the employees got more comfortable with trusting me, one shared that she had been threatened that day by a customer, only because she wasn’t able to collect payment from another customer fast enough for his liking. She was doing her best in a time of much uncertainty, so his behavior had rocked her world and her mindset. She was flustered and frustrated. All she wanted to do was her job, and she felt let down and defeated.
We commiserated together for a bit while both employees helped bag my selections, and after paying, I walked out with the employee who was headed home. We laughed at my attempt to grow my own food from scratch, and before she wished me well on my adventure, she thanked me for being pleasant, noting that it was customers like me that made her job worth it.
I hadn’t done anything special. I didn’t give a tip or offer to share any of my tomatoes with her once they grew. I didn’t even talk long, for I needed to get home and wanted as little time outside of the house as possible. But I did offer a smile. I did look her in the eye. I did listen to her worries from the day and sympathize with her as she shared her frustration with the previous customer. I did validate her work and I did thank her. What I thought were little acts of normalcy, to her, were acts of kindness.
When I got home, I rallied the family together to help fill pots with soil and select the seeds that we would give the opportunity for growth. In my quick attempt to get to the store and back, I didn’t realize that I bought enough supplies to plant seeds into 120 pots! My little side project turned into a several hour endeavor, but one that was hopefully well worth it.
Every time that I scratched the soil’s surface to make a little space for a single seed to rest, I thought of that employee and the power of a single action. A seed is tiny — most of the ones we planted this week were as small as a pencil tip. And yet, if all of our seeds take root, I expect to welcome nearly 240 vegetable and fruit plants to our garden with a bountiful supply of produce to share with our family and friends. Something as little as a single seed has the power to feed many.
I can’t imagine how my conversation impacted the employee that I connected with. It may have given her a brief moment of peace, knowing that she was appreciated. Or, it may have caused her to take a moment to listen to someone else’s concerns and help them feel appreciated too. Like the possibilities a single seed can bring, my brief conversation may take root and bear fruit in ways I’ll never see or be able to comprehend.
As a sower of seeds filled with opportunity, consider what you are planting in the lives of others, for one day you may reap the fruits of your labor.