My mother was the gardener in our family. I am definitely not.

She made it look so easy: pre-pare the soil, sow some seeds, water as needed. Before long, beautiful flowers bloomed. For my mother, yes. But not when I tried it. And I tried it many times, with both flowers and vegetable plants.

The Future’s in Plastic

I remember the year when I planted squash seeds in a small plot in the backyard. I watered them faithfully, checked on them daily and even talked to them on occasion. How excited I was when they began to grow!They soon developed good-sized leaves and, later, some blossoms.

Nice, big blossoms. I was sure that I’d soon see something that looked like the yellow crookneck squash on the package of seeds I’d bought.

But that didn’t happen. One day, the blossoms just keeled over and dried up. The green stems turned a sickening brownish yellow, and I could almost hear them mocking me as they gave up whatever plants give up when they die.

After that I gave up gardening altogether, telling myself that a well-mowed lawn and a hardy bush or two was all my little yard needed. If I wanted more colour, I could always opt for plastic! 

Flowers, Not Weeds

That lasted until my husband’s company transferred him to another town. The house we found there had a large grassy yard bordered by waist-high hedges. It was late fall when we moved, so I didn’t even think about flowers. But then, spring arrived and, with it, an unbidden urge to plant flowers in the beds out front.

I’ve decided it’s much better to extend a friendly welcome to everyone God puts in my path each day. JOYCE STARR MACIAS

Off I went to a garden shop where I bought potted outdoor plants. No more seeds for me. The salesman assured me that the flowers I chose would be easy to care for.

But first, I needed to clear the flower beds. They were so overrun with green plants that virtually no soil was visible. Healthy, nice-looking plants. But I wanted flowers, not healthy weeds.

No More Potted Plants

I spent about an hour yanking them out and putting them into a big pile to throw out later. My mother was coming to visit, so I wanted to get at least that part done before she got there. By the time she arrived, I was covered with dirt, and my pile of weeds had grown pretty high. 

I was feeling quite proud of my efforts, so I wasn’t prepared for my mother’s reaction.

“Joyce, Joyce, what are you doing?” she cried out. “Why are you letting those plants sit in the hot sun? They’re going to die if you don’t get them in the dirt and water them.” 

She rattled off the name of some perennial plant species I’d never heard of before. Before I could show her the flowers I intended to plant, she got down in the dirt with me and started digging little holes for replanting my “weeds,” saying they would be absolutely gorgeous with a little tender, loving care.

And she was right, of course. As the weeks went by, their stalks grew to just the right height and they soon produced stunningly colourful flowers that lasted most of the summer. 

I don’t remember what I did with my potted plants.

The Heart of the Matter

Much later, it occurred to me that there was a similarity between my initial attitude toward the plants and the way we often treat people. We tend to surround ourselves with those who look like us, dress like us and talk like us without taking time to really see others who are different. We don’t make the effort to look for what’s inside of them.

The Bible speaks of this human flaw in 1 Samuel 16:7: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I certainly hadn’t looked for the potential of the plants that were in my flower beds. My insistence that they were weeds almost kept me from seeing the true beauty within them. I wondered if a negative attitude toward other people could rob me in the same way.

I’ve decided it’s much better to extend a friendly welcome to everyone God puts in my path each day. If God values what’s inside people more than what they may seem like at first glance, then I need to have the same attitude. (And I can hope they will look at me the same way!)

By valuing each person as a unique creation of God, I’m seeing the beautiful blossoms of new friendships developing. I’m expecting those blooms will keep flourishing even for people like me who weren’t born with a green thumb! And that’s no mistake.

Photo: Iryna/

Joyce Starr Macias is a retired newspaper reporter who lives in Apache Junction, Arizona. As a freelance writer, her stories have been published in numerous Christian magazines and short-story collections.

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