Along the 40th Street wall there is a small forest of Shoestring Acacias that has altered the course of Seed history. Or at least the lives of a few children who have come and gone from the Seed, as well as my own. The trees, described in a recent newspaper article as “low debris” trees, drop more seed pods and leaves than any other tree we’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, the seed pods are a big hit with the kids and they find all kinds of uses for them in their imaginative play. Furthermore, we now have about ten huge trees we didn’t have to pay for, courtesy of the Shoestring Acacias. Not only were they free, but they provide a backdrop for some of the most creative pretending on the schoolyard.
There is more to the Acacia story, though. Because they drop so many seeds, there is always a large crop of sprouts poking up, especially in our school garden. They sprout so readily that if you linger long enough, you can almost see them bursting up through the soil. They’re one of the most relentless plant species I’ve ever known. Several years ago, when I was still a classroom teacher, I had a couple of boys in my class who loved gardening, especially pulling weeds. We had to do a training session to make sure their “weeding” didn’t include some of the vegetables and herbs. I showed them how to identify the Acacia sprouts one time and I rarely saw another one for the rest of that year. Those two were as tenacious as the sprouts they eradicated.
In the years that have followed, I’ve had a few children interested in the Acacia “removal program,” but none as devoted as the original two. I think of those boys often and am continually inspired by their application of tenacity in their own lives. They have faced huge challenges as teenagers on the autism spectrum, and daily continue to show their courage and willingness to face life head on. Last year one was selected as a member of his school’s National Honor Society. Just yesterday I received an invitation to attend the other boy’s Eagle Scout ceremony. I know I played a small part in helping them embrace life when they were younger, even for such activities as weeding the Acacias from our garden. But it’s their own strength and determination that have carried them forward, and will continue to, as they grow into the fine young men they most certainly will become.