I felt crazed by COVID, the state of our nation, the vomit puddles at my bus stop and of course—the election. So Monday afternoon I got down on my hands and knees and planted hope. I buried 150 daffodil bulbs in our back lawn. By mid-spring we may not have a new president, we may not have a Corona virus vaccine, but by God, there will be beauty in our backyard!
With every hole I dug I said a little prayer—for hope. And for what am I hoping? That whatever the outcome, I can walk the path that Jesus has laid out for us: one of compassion and love and understanding.
This is no small request because what I really want to do is run around shouting, “Vanquish the Mad King!” and/or curl up with a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups and eat myself into a hyperglycemic coma. I want everything to be easy and simple: I am right and They are wrong. But the Truth about a situation is often complicated. I had to think about this.
Every time my shovel hit the earth, I dug deep into my own beliefs about the “other.” You know the “other”, the one who disagrees with my views and seems to live in a completely different reality. And my digging revealed that I hardly think of these people as people at all! Ugh. This was a terrible revelation. I was participating in the polarization of which I’m so critical.
I felt ugly inside.
I almost stopped planting. There was already so much ugliness with this project: the “lawn” which is really moss and weeds; the hard dirt and hidden rocks, my leather gloves coated in mud; my backyard which looked like farting moles had a frat party.
Then there is the bulb itself: a wizened curl of papery brown skin at the top; weird, curly hairs coming out of the bottom. (Yes, I realize if we live long enough we’ll all look like that.) But we know that out of this ugliness great beauty is born. This is not a new analogy.
I felt ugly because I knew that often I avoid disagreeing because I don’t know how to differ graciously. I’m still learning to say, “Wow, I see that so differently.” I’m still learning to listen to what I find distasteful and then ask sincere questions. I wasn’t taught this growing up. In my family it was either, “You agree with me,” or “You’re an idiot.”
“Still learning.” Those are words that indicate change is possible, growth is coming. Those are words that can promise beauty, like my bulbs.
Here are the varieties I planted: “Unsurpassable,” “Fortune” and “Dutch Master.” (I had to buy that last one since I’m married to a man with a Dutch last name.) Those first two names seem prophetic so I’ll put them together and predict that I’ll have “Unsurpassable Fortune” this spring. But I know that such splendor will arrive only after a bleak period of darkness and cold, during which it seems there is no change, growth or life. But then at last hope sprouts, grows and blossoms! There will be beauty—no matter what.
It’s just a matter of time. Daffodils—and democracy—require patience.