“Couldn’t we plant some things there?”
She points to a dusty corner between the brick of the decades-old apartment house and the brick on the edge of the front steps. Not even weeds grow there.
I start to say no, that’s a terrible idea. If weeds won’t grow, plants won’t grow.
But I stop.
As usual when I visit the third street apartments, I experience not just culture shock, but a keen sense that something is not right. A grandmother yells at her grandson. Sleazy men sidle up beside a grimy young woman. Welfare checks flow into new bikes and paper bags of cheeseburgers and ice cream from the Dairy Queen at the other corner of the block.
First, we plant geraniums and peppers and tomatoes and lettuce in the large pots out front. A little boy jumps in to help but doesn’t want to follow directions. He gets angry when I explain to him that planting needs to be done in a certain order. I feel bad that he is upset, and I ask him if he wants a geranium.
“I want three,” he says.
No, I say, just one, and he’s mad again.
It is when I am about to leave that the young lady (whose “true love” is in prison) asks to plant a garden in the dusty corner.
We mix in potting soil, and pour water out of a plastic jug. We place the plants according to her wishes, although I give suggestions. I tell her that she needs to water it a lot because of the roof overhang.
“This is MY garden,” she says proudly. “I’m going to take care of it.”
Will it grow? I don’t know.
But this garden is her garden and so it is more important than the pots that I planted. Years from now, when she’s forgotten what I put in the pots, she may remember that she had her OWN garden.
One of the dirt-stained men on the porch says, “My brother has some Miracle Grow. I think I could get some of that.”
“That’s a great idea,” I say.
But beyond that, perhaps the dusty corner of the lawn, untouched by beauty, is a better environment for her plants than my grand pots anyway. The lonely dust is tragically similar to her own life, even if she doesn’t know it.
Hopefully, the idea of growth will embed itself subconsciously into her soul and give her a vision for what God can do, and a dissatisfaction for the parts of her life that are less than beautiful. Perhaps, the challenge of caring for something in a very bad spot, and watching it’s miraculous growth will remind her that it’s possible. It’s possible to do things in a way that works well. It’s possible for God to grow things out of almost nothing, and so he can do that with people, too.
It’s possible to grow in the desert, if someone brings water.