I came back from my spring break trip to New York to a mess – in my flower garden. After several cool rainy weeks, and then a warm week-end, the weeds had gone crazy, covering all my little flowers trying to come out to enjoy the sunshine. Despite my best efforts at putting down mulch during the winter, the nettles and crabgrass and something called ‘henbit’ had sprouted.
But amazingly, my flowers were still there under the invading predators that threatened to snuff them out. My butterfly bushes were putting out new growth, the Lenten Rose Bush was beautiful and lantanas that I cut back over the winter were putting out some tentative greenery. The early irises were blooming tall and proud.
After spending almost the whole day yesterday on my hands and knees pulling up the invaders, the garden is looking better. I found a few plants that were hidden under the weeds and more that are coming up from their winter sleep underground. They are like old friends that I haven’t seen in several months.
My flowers that are pushing their way up to the sun remind me of some of the young people at my school, kids that fight their way past weeds and debris in their lives, both metaphorically and physically. These are young teens who have to worry about whether Dad remembered to pay the electric bill or if Mom will wake up in time to get to her job because she was drunk the night before. Lots of them sleep on couches because there are not enough beds to go around and may not have much to eat on the weekends. Some of them may be afraid of their dads or uncles or Mom’s boyfriend.
Yet some, not all, of these kids survive and even thrive. They see a life beyond what they have known and they work to get there. Many have a natural intelligence and love of learning. They want to go to college and study and get a good job and have a comfortable house and a decent life. Those are the ones that keep us going as educators – the flowers that keep struggling to survive, despite the odds that are against them.
Each spring I’m amazed at the miracles that come up from the soil in my garden. Like the flower bulbs and seeds that hold so much potential, these middle schoolers impress me with what they can do. Just as I pulled away the weeds to let the flowers in my garden have room to expand and blossom, I do what little I can for the students I see, whether it’s a listening ear, a compliment or a book that I think they will like. Others do much more than me -teachers who work with them daily and administrators who find money for growth opportunities – so hopefully, prayerfully, all of us working together will make a difference in the sun coming in or the weeds taking over.