I planted a plat of marigolds along the walkway one Spring. I watered them, enjoyed them and promptly dug them up three weeks later when they had shriveled to my lack of care.
By the following year, I reveled in my relocation to a home with mature landscaping. The azalea’s bloomed as expected. The periwinkle popped its purple presents around the perimeter of the house. The Liriope stretched its spidery arms. The crepe myrtles burned a deep pink glow. And the dogwood’s smile completed the colorful masterpiece cast upon the yard.
Hanging onto such beauty has proved more challenging. This year, my husband and I have found ourselves digging up overgrown Liriope, cutting down dogwoods that didn’t survive the winter, and chopping out azalea sections that have come to grow in two different colors. Our tendency to cut off, dig up and replace brought us to great debate about the overgrown Cutleaf Japanese Maple that adorned the entrance to our sidewalk. A wilting bush we thought, could be replaced by something much more cheerful and welcoming.
But one recent Saturday, Tree Fredericksburg’s Anne Little happened upon our block. As she repaired a damaged tree in front of our home, we discussed our struggling bush. “It needs to be pruned,” she explained.” When the limbs have too many offshoots weighing them down, they cannot spring up and take their true form.” Limb by limb, we began to disperse of the dead weight branches until the tree popped back to its previous perfection.
Much like our maple, many of Micah’s homeless guests come to us with untended limbs. They are weighed down not just by substance abuse, mental illness and criminal backgrounds, but by damage inflicted upon them from their youngest days. Their trip into homelessness never comes without a story, all very different from the next. But without fail, each of them shares a common lack of a support network. Through circumstance, abandonment and sometimes by their own choice, they have lost everyone in their lives, leaving no one to pull the weeds, mulch their beds and prune their heavy branches.
Luckily for them, people like Anne Little have found a way to take part in tending their overgrown lives. It so happens that, every Saturday for the last two Springs, she has tapped Micah clients who are willing to join her band of volunteers in planting new trees throughout the city. And this is no dig a hole in the ground and bury the roots event. It comes with instruction, observation and grooming of the skill. As homeless hands drop these beauties in the ground, they become somebody. No longer are they the man or woman who slept outside last night; they are the partner that contributed to the community beautification effort. They are the citizen who cares whether it lives to see its branches spread. And they begin to believe that maybe they do have something to contribute to the world after all.
Some seeds fall along the road and are trampled. Others fall among the rock and quickly wither. And plenty find themselves choked by the thorns. While many do fall among the good soil, bringing fruit one hundred fold, there is nothing that says a seed that begins its life among rock, footpath or thorns, can’t someday find its way to solid ground, where it may find its purpose as flowering gem. After all, we seeds do come from the same bag and “whoever has ears to hear, may hear.”