Planting in a Drought

It is my daughter's 11th birthday. 

And, as she reminds us, she was born on Earth Day.

While we were anticipating some requests for technology or an overly priced gift, our daughter turned to us and said, "All I want for my birthday is to plant a garden." And so, with her grandmother, we went to our local garden store and let her have the run of the planting aisles. She picked the soil, the containers, the seeds, and supplies. When she celebrated with her few friends, they came over with gardening gloves, a bright purple watering can, and some sunscreen. 

We stayed up late that night, mixing soil and water and creating a mess in our dining room. We poked seeds into the containers and she crafted beautiful labels for each seed case. 

We laid them all on our dining room floor, eagerly awaiting for the sun to come out during an extended, dreary New England spring. 

I left for a business trip, carefully rolling my luggage between the cases of plants. As I rushed off to the airport, I saw patches of dirt still sprinkled along the dining room floor. 

After a few days, I came home and rolled my luggage back into the dining room. I was stunned by the little containers of dirt that now had bright, green, fragile sprigs. 

My work -- traveling and having difficult conversations about race, identity, privilege and power -- are much like these little plants. It's messy. It's dirty. You get covered with stuff. You take this tiny little seed -- some no bigger than a crumb -- and hope you tucked them into the right spot in the soil. Oh, and that soil? Yeah, it has to be good. It has to be soil that is full of nutrients. It has to be soil that is ready to accept this little seed. You have to water it. You have to give it just the right amount of sun. 

You have to not trample on it.

In our home, the conditions for those little plants were perfect. We paid attention to it -- just like we pay attention to issues of identity. We get dirty. We wait patiently. We believe that the seed will transform.

But, what happens when you plant in a drought? What happens when you plant, only to have it bulldozed? What happens when you water it just right but leave it out in the torrential rain? 

Identity work is hard. That's why I do it. I'm not afraid of talking about race or privilege or power. I know that others are. But, I am not. I am not afraid of the dirt and the hard work. I'm not afraid of the care that it takes to help things grow. 

I plant in a drought.

I plant these seeds of knowledge, even when they are tough, because I believe in what's to come. I believe in the fruit of this labor. 

While there are people who are content throwing poison on the plants, or who fail to have patience to see what will grow, I still plant. 

The other night, I went to a concert featuring my friend, Tom Smith. And, he played this song. It hit so close to home that I had to force myself not to listen. In a room of strangers, I wasn't ready to cry or sway or break down - even though this song does that so easily to me. I needed to come home, listen to it privately, and just let it wash over me. 

Plant in a drought. Plant even when the machines are buzzing and whirring ready to destroy your work. Plant. Plant and believe that there is life in this work. 

Peace and planting,