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Reflections in the Silver Cup

PLANTERS OF SEEDS

"Planters of Seeds" first appeared in Gallup Independent "Spiritual Perspectives" on September 21, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

 

I was heading back to my car with a basket of groceries when a pickup truck moved slowly, purposefully toward me in the parking lot.

 

"Oh no," I thought. "Am I about to get mugged?"

 

A young man leaned out the truck window and asked, "Are you Ms. Redsand?"

 

"Ye-es," I said, still hesitant.

 

"I'm Donald Benally [not his real name]. You were my counselor in 5th grade. I was a transfer student that year, and I kept getting into trouble in the classroom and on the playground. I was failing pretty much everything."

 

As he continued to talk, I walked over and stood beside Donald's window. Gradually I recognized the round cheeks and dark, sparkling eyes of that mischievous fifth-grader. He went on, "You held a parent conference for me. You talked about the stuff that wasn't going too good. Then you told me how smart I was. You showed me the specific ways I was smart—like how good I was in math when I tried. You said I could do anything I wanted to. I believed you. I finished high school early, and then I went to community college. I became an airplane mechanic. I work over at the airport." He grinned and opened his wallet to show me a picture. "This is my baby daughter."

 

I got goose bumps and a lump in my throat listening to Donald. We chatted for a bit, and as he got ready to drive home, he said, "Thank you, Ms. Redsand."

 

With my heart in my throat, I said, "No. Thank you, Donald. Thank you so much. Thank you for stopping to tell me that I made a difference in your life. More than that, thank you for believing in yourself."

 

I can't count the many times I told a student how capable they were, that they could do anything they chose to do. After thirty-nine years as an educator, I can count on two hands the number of times that I found out, years later, that a student had believed what I told them, that they had caught the ball I tossed them (so to speak) and run with it. Donald stopping to tell me the positive effect I'd had on his life is something I've treasured ever since.

 

Over the years, I survived and thrived as a counselor and teacher by reminding myself that I was a planter of seeds, especially when I worked in the field of substance abuse. I knew that if I expected to see results with every client or every student, I would make myself crazy. Results weren't in my hands or in my words. Sometimes I planted a seed, and I got to see a tiny sprout. I had to find meaning in that, if I was going to carry on. And then sometimes, someone like Donald would come along, and I would get to see how the seed had blossomed.

 

The opportunity to be a planter of seeds is a great privilege and a life lesson. When we plant seeds in our gardens, we do tend them; especially here in the Southwest, it's essential that we give them water. We also need to weed. But aside from that, the harvest is mostly out of our hands. It lies in the DNA and health of the seeds themselves, in the sun, and in the miracle that is photosynthesis.

 

So, too, with the human lives we are privileged to touch for the better. We say or do what we can, and then we let go and let the growth happen. It may be that another gardener comes along to water and weed. That letting go isn't always easy. We so often want to see our work come to fruition for the sake of the person who may be hurting. And it's natural to want to be valued, to have our work acknowledged. The fact is that most of what happens after we plant the seed is not up to us. There are other influential people and circumstances in the lives of those we encounter. It is good to be thankful for the seed and the soil in which we could do the planting. It is an immeasurable gift when we are allowed to know that we made a difference in the life of someone who needed what we had to offer.

 

Because it is the beginning of the school year, and even though there are many other planters of seeds, I want to give a special shout-out to teachers and school counselors as they plant seeds throughout the coming year. May the soil be rich and receptive. May you be gifted with the knowledge that you make a difference.

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WHAT I LEARNED ON THE ROAD

1. Less stuff. I know I did much better than John Steinbeck when he loaded his camper in Travels with Charley, but I can do with even less than I thought.

 

2. More organization. On this trip the storage area next to my bed became a pile of cloth bags filled with various and sundry items. Bins will make the bag I need easier to find and the whole space feel more orderly.

 

3. Denatured alcohol. My little Solo Stove uses twigs or denatured alcohol as fuel. Twigs don't stay lit as easily as I'd hoped and need to be added fairly constantly during boiling/cooking. They also coat the stove and pans in soot. So alcohol most times.

 

4. Eat even more simply. Less food for the cooler, less cooking.

 

5. Chairs are important. The chair I bought at REI did not provide enough support for my back, and I ordered a better one but didn't have it for this trip. Picnic benches aren't enough for getting work done or just relaxing.

 

6. A fixed place to wander from. When I was in my early twenties, I immersed myself in Thomas Wolfe's novels–Look Homeward Angel; You Can't Go Home Again; Of Time and the River; A Stone, a Leaf, a Door; The Web and the Rock. The voluptuous language flooded my senses, and his dark romanticism was utterly relatable to a twenty-something. But it was his perception of movement, fixedness and wandering that drew me in so I still remember the words 50 years later. I didn't realize yet how restless I was; I didn't truly observe that in myself until I counted house moves on my 60th one. I didn't begin to comprehend it until I read Third Culture Kids. In one place Wolfe wrote, "...we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement." Even more compelling to my young self then, and to my much older self now, was the idea (and I could not locate the exact quote) that the true wanderer can only wander from a fixed place. I didn't know what a wanderer I would become, and if I've had a fixed point from which to wander, it has undoubtedly been an inner point until now.

 

I've mentioned that I've felt something akin to shame about my mobile life, and that shame has come from external sources–people jesting about my changeablilty, although some admire the adventures. But on the return road from this trip, I began to feel an actual need to settle, and it came from within–wanting, even longing, to have that Wolfian fixed place from which to wander. Wanting to be on the road one week of the month and home the rest of it, rather than the other way around. For the most part.

 

Although, as many of you know, I've never liked Albuquerque, there are parts of it that I love. I've spent more adult years here than anywhere else, so I have friends here and a beloved community. I have to ask, please don't judge me, maybe don't even make a joke about it, as this is a tender spot for me: I am looking for a small home to rent here. Adventures are still in the works but most likely I will not be living on the road.

 

 

 

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