Monday, June 8, 2015

Using Gardens to Teach Important Truths of our Faith

A tiny tomato has started growing on the far right!
I'm a terrible gardener. Unlike my mother and grandparents, I did not inherit the gardening gene. I can remember as well as anyone, but often forget to water my plants. In fact, the only things I've actively kept alive are an aloe vera plant in my daughter's room (because it doesn't need much sun or water), and my daughter herself. However, this doesn't stop me from spending tens of dollars on seeds, pots, and dirt to try growing something about every other year (Thankfully, seeds are dirt cheap).

This year is different. For one, I decided to buy plants and bulbs, not seeds. I can't grow seeds for the life of me, and I'm done trying. My onions were rather carelessly tossed into some dirt, and miraculously survived! We will have 5 homegrown onions this fall, not many, but enough to show Eleanor. We also planted some tomatoes, lots of herbs, and some fancy lettuce. I bought asparagus roots, but we didn't have enough containers for them, and they take 2 years to grow properly. Sometime by the end of the summer, we are hoping to have a raised garden put in, and I'll plant them then. I haven't given up on seeds, however. I'm going to try to plant a lemon seed in a container that we can bring into the building when it gets cold.
You can see the 4 flowers and 2 fruits of our yellow pear tomatoes
I wanted Eleanor to experience the joy of growing something, of providing for something, of seeing something grow into fullness and then, of providing food for our family. Even though she's only almost a year, a good example never starts too early. We planted some of the things we eat most often: tomatoes, onions, and herbs for seasoning. We don't eat much salad, admittedly, but I want to get into the habit for dinner, especially dinner that we enjoy outside! It's easy to just break off a few leaves for everyone, wash them up, and serve them while the grill is going. Imagine a few years from now, when a larger garden will mean more than just a handful of plants, but include zucchini, asparagus, celery, hot peppers, and (probably) corn!
Before: a bunch of maple seeds had sprouted in this pot...
This year while planning my garden and while working, I started to reflect on the many truths of the faith that can be taught just by working. For instance, doesn't the work of taking after a plant or whole garden provide a good lesson on providing for a family, and Divine Providence? We have to take so much care of the plant, watering it only when needed, making sure it has the correct amount of sun (some need shade, some need full sun), making sure that wild animals don't kill it. All of the above takes a lot of work. Our children can imagine how much more work it takes their parents to make sure that they not only survive, but thrive! And we can show how God in His Diving Providence even helps us with our small task of taking care of the plants by bringing rain and sunshine!
... After: the new little lettuce plant will hopefully grow much bigger!
Another lesson that I learned in pictures and drawings back in kindergarten is that of comparing our souls to gardens. God plants the seeds of virtue in them at Baptism, and we must take care to cultivate the virtues, but also protect them from the weeds, rocks, storms, and animals. It is easier to teach children the larger lessons of life if they already have a grasp on the small ones: they understand the mysteries of the faith and the spiritual realm because it happens concretely in front of their eyes. St. Thérèse said that the reason she understood God's love, mercy, and justice, was because her own father showed her the example. As parents, we must be the examples of God that our children will most readily grasp if they are to have a strong faith. And it can all start with such a simple thing as a garden.