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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Virtues of Weeds

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson a weed is “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”  If Emerson were to look at the back yard of the Passaic Neighborhood Center for Women today, he would see the potential for the discovery of much virtue.  In our “old” raised garden beds from last year, in which we have not yet planted flowers, there are weeds of all sizes and shapes.  These weeds popped up during the last few weeks when there has been the right combination of sunshine and rain. 

As the weeds began to appear, I thought, “We’ll have to get rid of them before our July 18 workshop when we’re planting flowers in these beds.”  As they grew larger, I thought, “I don’t have the time and energy to deal with these weeds.”  Recently, I thought, "I'll tolerate them or pretend they are not there."  After all, these weeds do not interfere with our new vegetable garden which was planted on May 15.  Those ten, newly-constructed, raised beds – safely ensconced on the other side of the church building – are brimming with tomatoes, corn, lettuce, eggplant, kale and other plants. So, why should I pay any attention at all to these weeds?

Because they are beautiful!  

When I finally stopped ignoring and tolerating the weeds, I discovered the grace and beauty of their flowing leaves and upright flowers, swaying in the summer breeze and glistening in the noonday sun (see photo above).  When I really paid attention to their grace and beauty, I began to recognize the weeds as beautiful gifts from God.

Reflecting on my encounters with these weeds reminds me to pay attention to my encounters with others, especially those whose grace and beauty might not be abundantly apparent to me at first – that is, those whose virtues I have not yet discovered.  When I think, "These weeds would be nice if they weren't getting in the way of our planting," or "I don't have the time or energy for these weeds," I am missing an opportunity to encounter them just as they are in their current situation. When I walk past these flower beds without a second look, I am missing an encounter with beauty in that particular time and place. 

However, I am missing out on something much greater when I perceive the people I meet throughout the day as obstacles or energy thieves, or when I walk past someone without greeting them.  When I fail to see the beauty of the people I encounter, I tragically fail to recognize some of  God's most beautiful gifts -- human beings giving and receiving love.

So, what can weeds teach us?  That when we lovingly encounter a person just as he or she is right now, it can be grace-filled and beautiful!  Rather than seeing someone as a present annoyance or a future obstacle, can we realize that we only have the current encounter with this person?  Can we move beyond merely tolerating to encountering -- really encountering -- this person and recognizing him or her as one of God’s many gifts?  Can we move toward loving and being loved in whatever situation we find ourselves?

If we have difficulties doing this, perhaps we need to spend more time discovering the virtues of weeds!

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