Searching the Obvious

Dixil Rodríguez

is a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain living in Texas.

​Ready for Planting

So when do we know the soil is ready for gardening?” she asked. “You in the back, you’ve been so quiet.”

I manage a smile, since I am the “you in the back,” sitting through a gardening workshop at the local Home Depot. The instructor, Marsha, is very sweet and knowledgeable about gardening. Me? Not so much.

“I’m just taking it all in,” I say apologetically. Marsha smiles and moves on to more narrative content on soil, seasons, and what types of plants thrive in Texas. I sit still, hoping to melt into the wall, having flashbacks of middle school math class when I was called upon to explain this foreign math that had letters and numbers: algebra. Why would anyone put numbers with letters? My mind wanders, and I realize I seem to have no answers when put on the spot.

“Angels are among us, watching us fumble and work on God’s beautiful creations. Can you imagine that?”

My entire “Garden Your Worries Away” workshop at Home Depot is not just for fun. Four months ago my friend Eric received a grant to build a greenhouse for retired community members and youth groups to spend time working with flowers, ivies, and everything beautiful. As the greenhouse was built, I walked through the structure with Eric. Less than five miles from this greenhouse are retirement, nursing, and active living communities. Eric tells me this will bring many of the residents in these communities outside, as well as bring the youth group he mentors at his church.

I watch Eric’s enthusiasm as he explains the layout of the greenhouse. He is a full-time nurse who volunteers in retirement homes and church youth groups. He tells me he envisions an environment in which young and old learn and work together, commune together, spend time together. He asks me to volunteer. Sure! Then the silent realization: I don’t know anything about gardening.

Three weeks later, after framing my certificate for “Garden Your Worries Away,” I shyly open one of the doors into the greenhouse. I see Eric laughing with a couple who are working on “replanting” something. The place is full of retirees and youth, and everyone seems happy! How can flowers and plants bring so much joy? I walk around watching hands mixed in the soil, bulbs being pushed into the earth. I inadvertently eavesdrop and hear stories of years past, seniors giving advice to the young. They are all working with a piece of God’s creation.

Out of nowhere I hear a woman’s voice say: “Do you need some help getting started?” Yes! I follow her around the greenhouse as she tells me, “There’s more than gardening of the soil here. Angels are among us, watching us fumble and work on God’s beautiful creations. Can you imagine that?” Yes, I can.

As she helps me, I hear a group of young people start to sing. I recognize that song. I used to sing it in high school! Everyone joins in the singing as Eric finally spots me and nods as he sings along. I wonder how the Holy Spirit moves through the greenhouse cultivating love, compassion, and grace in our hearts. I laugh out loud and grab an empty flowerpot, and join the singing.

“So when do we know if the soil is ready for gardening?”

It’s ready now.

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