Dear Hope Nation,
Recently I’ve been asked by a number of people whether I’m looking to leave Hope any time soon. I’m not. I’m very happy at Hope because I get to spend time with folks in early recovery, the activity that means the most to me. Since it’s Sunday, parables are in order, and the following parable explains exactly why I’m not planning to leave any time soon. I have been the gardener in the parable, and Hope keeps me from becoming him again.
A certain man was a gardener, specializing in beautiful perennial gardens. Discarding modern, efficient techniques like fertilizer, irrigation and rotation, the man instead relied on intuition, caring and a search for perfection. For miles around, people came to see each year’s garden, observing the beauty of both change and continuity. The man was pleased to be where he belonged, and proud to do what he was called to do.
The man’s fame spread, and he was invited to become chief landscaper in a neighboring kingdom.
“I would like to be your landscaper,” the man said, “but I don’t have experience in planning crops, buying supplies or maintaining lawns. I am, however, a very good perennial gardener.”
The leaders of the kingdom assured the man that his skills as a perennial gardener were highly valued, and that others would surely be ale to do the planning of crops, the buying of supplies and the maintaining of lawns. He took the position.
Soon, the man felt overwhelmed and alienated by the daily work of planning crops, buying supplies and maintaining lawns. Still, he cherished his ability as a perennial gardener
Spending his days planning crops, buying supplies and maintaining lawns, the man still cherished the moments when he could work with perennials, helping them to grow, flourish and become what they were meant to be. Over time, though, the man felt so burdened by planning crops, buying supplies and maintaining lawns that he began to feel guilty for any time he spent with the perennials.
One day, two surly villagers brought him their only plant, a perennial which had failed to thrive or grow or flower. Although the couple was hardened, coarse and vile, they did love their plant, in their way, and wanted to see it do well. They spoke viciously of the others who had promised to help their plant, appearing to believe that they were victims of a conspiracy to hurt them. The man listened patiently, then talked of the light that he would give the plant, the care he would take with it and the growth it would enjoy. The villagers left their plant and went away.
The man spent time with the plant, starting to transplant it but being called away by the needs of planning crops, buying supplies and maintaining lawns. He knew that crops, supplies and lawns can wait; plants can’t. Still, he left the plant to do his duty.
The village couple sent word inquiring about their plant. The man told himself that tomorrow he would find time to work with the plant. But tomorrow was filled with planning crops, buying supplies and maintaining lawns. Every tomorrow was the same. The couple again sent word, asking about the man’s promises to work with their plant. Each time, the man told himself that tomorrow would be different. After all, the man was a very good perennial gardener. Instead, tomorrow was just the overflow from today.
Finally, the couple came in person to confront the man. Filled with shame, his mouth tasting of aspirin, the man realized he had forgotten the plant, allowing it to die without light or care or growth. Instead of a gardener, he was a guilty of herbicide. The man begged the forgiveness of the couple, who treated him as he deserved, comparing him to all the others who had let them down over the years. They shook the dust off their feet at him and left him alone.
I live to spend time with folks in early recovery, not to spend my days planning crops, buying supplies and maintaining lawns.
You matter. I matter. We matter.