It’s been a long winter. Just when you think you’ve seen the last of the snow, it comes on the heels of the rain. At least we avoided the latest 10 inches of snowfall they got in Duluth. One expects we should get used to the unexpected when it comes to the weather.
As those who could do the most about the climate crisis ignore our carbon footprint and give fossil fuel corporations more money in subsidies than we give the defense department, the weather is only bound to get more erratic. I hope the daffodils won’t be snowed under again next year, as they were this year. Miraculously, one small patch in our garden survived and bloomed.
We take hope in those blooming patches and the promise of spring. The tulips are blooming brighter and more prolific this year than last. Maybe there are fewer rabbits hiding under the shed to eat the tender shoots. Whatever the reason, the bright colors give the world around us a more positive quality after all the gray and white days that buried us in cold and cottage fever.
It seems like we’ve also been buried in the woes of the world this winter. Daily recitations of ill will, violence and crisis, hammer at us to the point of depression and despair.
A bumper sticker I received in the mail yesterday responded well. “The best tweets come from birds.” The sticker comes from the Sierra Club as part of a new program emphasis on “Outdoors for All; Inspiring Connections Outdoors.” It’s the time of year for walking, hiking, bike riding, gardening, bird watching, spending time in the great outdoors. A friend is posting bird pictures on Facebook taken at the Nature Park. I’ve been invited to a bike ride, although I don’t have a bike. Our spirits and our energy are renewed as we experience the earth coming to life once more.
There may be a spring secret for coping with the woes of the world. If, like me, you can’t seem to avoid (though you may want to) the news of school shootings, the immigration crisis, wars and rumors of war, racial division, and all the myriad ways the earth and its inhabitants are suffering, one small patch of daffodils may offer some consolation. We don’t have to have a huge poppy field. One flower, one bird call, one seed planted with care can make the difference between our wearisome winter and spiritual spring.
In my Peace & Justice class at Mt. Marty in Watertown this last semester, students were required to commit 12 hours to a service project with a local non-profit. They chose a variety of projects. None of them will single handedly change the world but as they reported what they had done, I got to thinking about their activities as their small garden, as patches of daffodils breaking through a frozen world.
One student worked for the Watertown backpack project, packing food bags and loading tubs into vehicles.
He related the statistics to the rest of the class, some 500 children receiving the weekly package. One in five children in this country is food insecure. He was asking how it is that in the richest country in the world we have so many children, and elderly, hungry? He was making his contribution, planting his seed, making a flower bloom in some child’s life.
Another student worked for the local humane society. He painted a painstaking picture of cleaning cat cages. Some 60 cats had to have their individual cages cleaned one by one, including washing their food and water bowls. It was easy to spend four hours each time he went cleaning cat cages. The care of cats seemed to increase his affection for dogs. Nevertheless, his affection for God’s creatures sustained him and he contributed to their well being.
A third student worked at the local domestic abuse shelter. Her work began with cleaning and ended with an opportunity to interact with women being sheltered. Another visited with the elderly. Another helped the Muti-Cultural Center with a Cinco De Mayo festival held in the downtown on May 4. There was a student working with CASA and one with the Boys and Girls Club.
Each person took on one project that is making a difference in the lives of others. I think it’s a spring secret for the renewal of life. Daffodil seeds can’t produce tulips. And cardinal calls aren’t like the blue jay, but together they are all signs of Spring and of new life. They help us see the avenues for moving beyond and through the troubles of the day.
I’m reminded of two quotations. The first is from Mother Teresa. It’s like that solitary patch of daffodils. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
The second comes from Margaret Mead. It’s like a full stand of tulips. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”