I offered seeds in an innocent gesture prior to a class on positive communication. I was shot down, though the woman I had asked for had requested seeds in the quest to feed her family. The woman who rejected the seeds assured me that neither the woman that I had inquired for, nor herself had “time to garden.” It was growled at me. I kept the beautiful seeds tucked into my jeans pocket and wondered where have we gone wrong. Don’t worry, I will return to the right person, but for now, I would go.
Gardening is considered a hobby for the rich in much of the United States. We all know that we are conditioned by cheap low end food that is low in nutrition and light on the budget thanks to government subsidies. People here in Hawaii often pick fights with me noting that they cannot afford organic vegetables, nor can they afford to take time to even grow one potted plant. These fights go nowhere, as I often just reference their ability to make more of their dinners from whole food, rather than buying so many “ready made” meals that cost a fortune. But part of me questions what is below the surface of these confrontations over things as simple and pure as whole food and free seeds.
I had a large group out to the farm for an educational tour. It surprised, and disappointed me that three would mention stealing seeds from the farm. Why? I had already taken the initiative to share my knowledge and to hand pollinate, harvest and dry seeds for the group. Why would you steal? And I also had to wonder, how many more did, and didn’t tell me? It made me wonder about gratitude and greed.
If there is anyplace where Hawaii is at a great disadvantage, it is in it’s inability to live up to it’s idealized position as “paradise.” A imaginary place within one’s mind, with lofty utopian perfection at every corner. Many flock to Hawaii and expect all to be as perfect as the weather. Paradise is to be served up on a silver platter, and when it is not, someone is going to pay for it. The problem that confuses many here, is even when “paradise” or kindness and generosity is served up in the form of open sharing of knowledge, free seeds, or beautiful food, it is still rejected, or stolen, such as the case of the before mentioned seeds. It makes me believe that the void within cannot be filled by 365 sunny days in a row.
Recently, my neighbor died. Though shocking to some extent, it changed my life wildly. You see, my neighbor stole from my garden nearly every day, stomped plants, and then complained that she would take more if she could identify what “weird” things I was growing. She complained about the taste of the beans. I couldn’t comment, because I never got any. This was the second time in Hawaii that I had a neighbor like this. I’d like to say that I was ready, but you never really are. Though, I work hard to defend myself from the verbal attacks, there is little to do to protect the plants in your absence. No fence, nor confrontation could keep her out. What confused me initially was the stealing. I offered a bounty every chance I got, in part just due to kindness, but also hoping to keep her from crushing the plants. The more I offered, the more she stole. I thought of that with the seeds at the farm. Is giving seeds away encouraging people to steal from me?
Gratitude is a hard one to teach. Many learn it when they are young. They learn not just to say thank you, but to mean it. We learn to take care of our things, and to not always want more. But when looking at the culture surrounding us, one has to hear the message that more will heal us, fill the void, and empower us. For those of you who read my earlier post about my delivering bananas to my neighbors, I found out who my kind neighbors were. Can we teach grownups to be grateful, even if they were raised in homes where it wasn’t taught, or they had to be greedy in order to survive. Can we teach the lady at the office to open her hand and her heart and accept a gift of seeds. To give herself, or a neighbor a chance to share in the beauty and potential captured within a seed. Can we continue to give even when the receiver is not grateful, or even kind? These are tough situations to face, but many gardeners already understand the gratitude that can come from their labors. Watching a garden grow is humbling, and sharing the bounty is rewarding. So what better place to face these tough issues then in the garden where life, potential, and beauty surrounds.