My hands have been deep in the dirt these past weeks, pulling and planting. It is a peaceful place for my hands, heart and mind. Sweet memories, the seeds and water of my life, re-root there.
Dad was a man who was always willing to try new things, I loved that about him, and I am grateful that he passed that willingness along to me. Nothing makes my heart stir like a new project.
One Spring someone gave him burlap bag full of strawberry plant starters. Dad began to talk about a strawberry patch, how we would have so many strawberries and would be eating all the strawberry shortcake and strawberry pie we could stand by the next June.
He went to work clearing out a small plot behind the garage. It wasn’t easy turning over that earth, it was covered in strong rooted grass. He was strong and never a man to give up and after a few days of toiling and turning, the rich dark soil showed itself.
Once a shallow crevice was dug out for each one, we carefully planted each of those tender strawberry plants. Our strawberry patch was perfect, there is something wonderful about freshly turned soil and newly planted plants, it is a place where hope dwells.
We checked our patch every day, giving our plants plenty of water and tender loving care. Dreaming about the day we would have more strawberries than we could imagine.
Those dreams came to a crashing halt, when our neighbor Mrs. Kitch, who’s favorite past-time was to snitch, came to my parents with the bad news. Two boys had pulled up all of Dad’s strawberry plants, and she just happened to know which neighborhood boys they were.
I remember my Dad standing over our precious strawberry patch, his camouflage hat in one hand, his head bent in defeat with his free hand running through his hair. This told me he was upset. Our once strong plants laid scattered and uprooted, their leaves wilting in the sun. Inside I raged, not only for our uprooted plants, but for the loss of our hope and plans.
The next thing I knew Dad was walking down the sidewalk to the house of one of the boys. After a few minutes Dad, one of the boy’s father and two crying boys stood over our decimated strawberry plants. In silence, the father shook his head in shame as he surveyed the damage, not wanting to believe that his boy was one of culprits of this act.
I stood off to the side watching the scene unfold and I’ll admit I enjoyed it, every uncomfortable moment. It’s easy when you are not the one squirming.
After some discussion the boys and the father were back with gardening tools. The two men, with arms crossed over their chests, supervised two scared and sweaty boys as they carefully and gently replanted each plant that they had torn out.
When their work was finished, I watched as my Dad looked each boy in the eye, he shook their hands and tousle their hair. His way of saying, this can be forgiven.
The sun would not be so forgiving, and our plants would require extra water and tender loving care. With that care, they rooted, they grew and our hopes and dreams for them revived.
Seeds were planted in the hearts of two boys that day, forgiveness and redemption can come when one rights a wrong. Plants that have been torn out and left for dead can thrive again when planted in good soil.
Seeds were planted in the heart of a girl, as she watched from afar the ways of good men. Seeds of humility and forgiveness, of wisdom and kindness, of words spoken with grace producing sweet and lasting fruit.
I think of that day in the early Spring, as I clean out my strawberry patch. Tearing out the weeds, making room for the new runners that will dig in and new young plants will sprout. I am reminded as I dig and pull that hope dwells here.