or world-dumb, I suppose.

disclaimer: What follows is purely my opinion, based on personal experience and reflection, but hey! it seems to work for me and mine.

  • The most important thing that may be wrong is impatience. People are impatient to grow up, to make money, to “get there” and forget to enjoy the process. My children have a relatively comfortable home, plenty to eat and lots of leisure time in between a couple of activities of their own choosing. Still, they are eager to grow up, to achieve the milestones… at their age, this youthful exuberance is appropriate. But in a parent, to be eager for them to grow faster, to finish school early, to get a high-paying job early devalues the things that make the rest important: the people, the time you spend with them, the memories you build. Gardening teaches that one cannot rush the plants — they grow and produce in their own time. Actually, parenting teaches the same thing!
  • The next problem is forgetting that what works for one person or family may not be the right thing for another. For example, whether or not we liked it, my inability to work for several years meant we survived on one income past the point we had intended. It may have been the better choice in the long run anyway, as it meant I was instantly available to the children all these years. But for another person whose career couldn’t be dropped or picked up again so easily (I am changing my focus anyway, so don’t have to worry about picking up again where I left off) that might have been devastating. Or, for a family without a spouse who was earning ‘just enough’ or who didn’t have doting grandparents to help supply a few extras, the loss of the second income (even if it had been part-time) could have meant losing the home. Gardening also teaches that the sunflowers next door will invariably bloom sooner than mine, despite my placing seeds in the best location and tending them daily. Is it my soil? The microclimate? But my blueberries are invariably sweeter than those next door…
  • A lack of charity really goes hand in hand with the above: I have heard, many times and from people in many walks of life, that anyone ought to be able to improve their lives, that other people shouldn’t have to take up the slack when people won’t “do” for themselves. But they forget, I think, that a) not everyone has the same health/strength levels; b) even in the most hard-working/successful lives sometimes things “just work out” or they are lucky… and sometimes they don’t; c) most successful people can point to someone in their past who supported them financially or otherwise to get them over rough spots; and d) it is no longer possible for many people to support themselves on their own land — most people now live in cities and hold title to neither their living spaces nor the means to be industrious. We do not all start out with the means and the ability to improve our lives without assistance. Gardening is nearly impossible without a bit of soil and the right exposure: a devoted adult in an apartment without a balcony cannot grow the same varieties and abundance as a child with muddy feet in the middle of half an acre.
  • Laughter. People take themselves too damn seriously. What is wrong with cracking a good-natured joke now and then? Laughing at a pun? Being silly in public? Our children don’t see us playing, joking around, enjoying life. Maybe they should. My garden plays its own tricks on me, sending up potatoes underneath the tomatoes though it was years since I grew taters there… and not producing potatoes at all in the proper bed! If we are too insistent on having everything “just so” and only doing things that are serious, we miss
  • The next two items are new, 28 February 2016
  • Responsibility. It is difficult to “adult” — a new concept that has been floating around the social media world. I go to school almost every day, even when I am ill — I have had only a couple of sick days in the two years I have been at my current assignment, one for my son’s emergency hand surgery, two this year for an asthma attack and the flu. Might need another one this week (tomorrow) for a virus that I seem to have acquired, but if it feels like “only” a cold of course I will go in! This is in contrast to people who don’t have sick leave and so must go in to work or lose their jobs (at best, they lose the pay for the days they don’t show up). This is in contrast to people who find ways to claim what is called “workmen’s comp” when they might otherwise be able to work. I have the option when I am ill to stay home, but out of responsibility for these precious children I teach I go in unless driving is unsafe or I am contagious! A cold virus… one that I caught at school? I go in!
  • Diversity. One could call this openness to the beauty of the differences between people and groups. As I write this, it is an election year. The outgoing president, Barack Obama, has been the first truly “minority” president of our nation. The son of an immigrant and a native-born American mother, born in what would become the state of Hawaii, he also lived outside the U.S. as a child when his mother married a new husband who came from Indonesia. He married a remarkable woman, the child of working-class parents. He and his wife both graduated from college, going on the recieve degrees in law. An amazing, wonderful example of what hard work (and some luck) can do for people in this amazing nation that is based on the rights of all to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A land where a Bill of Rights further enumerates Freedom of Speech, of Religion and of the Press, among others. No test of faith/belief may be applied to candidates or those elected to public office (which includes teachers…). No natural born citizen may be denied their rights on the basis of anything other than a conviction. And so on.
       
    However, this year… several candidates for the presidency are doing solid imitations of Hitler in the decade or so preceeding Kristallnacht. Rhetoric is flowing freely about people who are adherents of Islam; people who come from specific nationalities; people who are different. And I ask myself: what ever happened to the idea that our nation is strong because of (rather than in spite of) the great diversity of experiences that leads to wide-ranging ideas that lead to innovations and a better world? A nation that begins to criminalize existence rather than actions is on the path to genocide. We need courage to embrace, rather than reject, our neighbors and their families. We have survived segregation, interning families in camps based on their ancestry, and hysterically denying employment to people based on (their constitutionally guaranteed right to) political opinions/affiliations and sexual history. We cannot forget these lessons.

I would finish this post today as a call for renewed commitment to service, to understanding, to doing what is necessary to improve the world; to reject the calls for secularism, for isolationism; to protect the most vulnerable among us including children, isolated elders, people with disabling conditions that require extra support; and so on.

Rather than give in to fear (and there is a lot going on in the world that is out of our control!), we can instead remember the lessons of our past, and pull ourselves together. We need to stand together in opposition to those forces that would divide us. We need to be stronger and braver than the pundits who proclaim immigrants as enemies and other religions as subversive.

I cannot solve the problems of the world, but I am just enough of an optimist to think that we can solve the problems of our nation. We can solve them through understanding, optimism, and the same spirit of ingenuity that is a hallmark of “Americans.” True patriotism will not turn its back on the proud heritage of inclusiveness. True patriotism will admit that past actions that deprived individuals of their rights in the absence of criminal activity on their part was not just wrong, it was unconstitutional and should not be repeated. True patriotism in our country recognizes that together we are stronger, braver, smarter, and better than when we isolate and cut off those who are different in selfish and cowardly attempts to protect ourselves from imagined threats. We grow when we take risks, we diminish when we don’t. Pretty simple.