I’ve never known nine-year old hands to reach out with such tenderness. Last week when I enlisted the assistance of our third and fourth grade students to help me find new homes for surplus sunflower sprouts, several sets of hands came forth in surprising, tender ways. First we dug receiving holes in the soil, in preparation for the fragile sprouts. Holes were filled with water to moisten the soil for the new arrivals. Then one by one, I dug up the transplants, and placed a single sprout carefully into a child’s cupped hands. Each child made the journey from the community garden to their own outdoor classroom area where the freshly watered holes awaited their new plants, careful to keep the protective soil packed around the roots. Without exchanging words, there was a silent understanding that each little plant’s life depended on a safe and careful delivery. This process continued with each child making several trips, until all holes were filled. With labeled popsicle sticks stuck in the ground near each sunflower to designate the assigned caretaker, the future of each sprout lies in the hands of a child. I will not be surprised if these sprouts grow strong and tall.
Later, after the dirt was washed off my hands and shovels were stowed away, the memory of passing off each sunflower sprout into the receiving hands left a lingering impression. It may have been an awareness that only I experienced, but somehow in that moment it felt like our sunflower relay may have been one of the most significant lessons these children will ever learn at the Seed. For a precious few minutes, each child set aside his or her personal agenda and gently offered service to a vulnerable expression of life that required tenderness and care. Without exception, each child took this task seriously with focused attention.
In the coming days we will care for the sunflower sprouts and soon maybe they’ll bloom with radiant flowers. We’ll observe, write, and wonder about the sunflowers and perhaps delve into the metaphor they provide for living. And during this week ahead devoted to gratitude, I‘ll remember how fortunate I am to have a life path that tends to the lives of children, in a school where they can be placed tenderly and given a chance to grow.