The other day a neighbor offered me some fresh garden produce and I happily accepted. My husband and I haven’t taken the effort to build up our rather alkali soil to produce a decent garden, so I was glad for the gift.
Later, after I saw the box of zucchini squash and some odd looking green bell pepper-looking things, I realized I would need to actually create meals with them. I had imagined my delivery box would contain picture perfect, long carrots with the frilly green stems on top like Bugs Bunny eats, and shiny red tomatoes that make any salad or sandwich even better — both requiring little preparation.
Heck, I wasn’t even sure if some were cucumbers or zucchini and if those odd looking green items were green bell peppers or hot and spicy peppers. Yet, I felt compelled to use them. You see, I was raised with the old pioneer adage: “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
The busy lady and convenience-loving woman in me quickly realized I’d have to take the time to go through the recipe books, ensure all of the ingredients were available, and bake it to just the right time — without being sure if I’d have success with the effort. Some of my experiments have been eaten with great anticipation, then when the meal concluded, the leftovers were quietly transferred to the trash.
Though I wasn’t itching to cook from scratch that day, it just felt like the right thing to do. So I combed through the zucchini recipes, matching it with my ingredients, and — low and behold — they turned out to be the best muffins I’ve ever made. They were melt-in-your-mouth amazing.
Munching on them, I marveled at what a journey I was a small part of, from that humble seed in the soil to the happy harvests with our plates and palate.
Seeds are funny things. I recalled a time in our life with Heidi, our daughter who was born with Down syndrome, when she was a happy baby and toddler. I took her to the local schools and presented handicapped awareness classes, symbolically planting seeds of awareness and achievements. Our family hoped our efforts would pay off, and gratefully, everyone accepted sweet little Heidi. Life was good.
As a teenager, Heidi had the darling munchkin look, but had become severely affected by autism, with high anxiety, emotional indifference and impulsiveness. I had to stop the class presentations; life was just too complex. All I could do was hope that others watered and weeded those early seedlings and plant fertile seeds of understanding and support.
When Heidi was about 15, I recall seriously doubting that she and I were good advocates for the disabled community anymore. I was still in survival mode, but longed for the years of opportunities to make a meaningful difference.
One hot August afternoon, a friendly teenage girl bagging my groceries at the local store had asked, “So, are you Heidi’s mom?”
“I am! Let’s see,” I stalled trying to place her face and put it with a name, but to no avail. “I’m sorry, so how do you know her?” I asked with a smile. “Were you one of her peer tutors at school?”
“Oh, I wish I could have done that. No, my schedule wouldn’t let me. Actually,” she chuckled, “I was a first grader when you and Heidi came in and spoke to our class about being nice to handicapped kids, and how they are actually quite talented in different ways.”
“Oh wow, you can remember us from that long ago?” I asked in amazement.
“Yep, I never forgot you two or your message,” she replied. “You were so happy in spite of the challenges.”
“Really? Wow, how kind of you to share that,” I replied.
“Well, Heidi was just cute and so lovable. I had never seen a child with Down syndrome. You shared she had to work twice as hard to crawl and walk, because her muscles were soft. I remember she was super flexible and could do the Chinese splits,” she gushed as we walked into the scorching parking lot with my grocery cart.
“True, Heidi was amazing,” I said with a dash of bittersweetness.
“Anyway,” she confided while lifting the grocery bags into my car, “I just wanted you to know that little class positively impacted my life. I’m thinking about going into the disability field.”
“Hey, do it,” I heartily responded, “we need people like you. Wow, you’ve truly made my day. Thanks.”
As I pulled my car out of the parking lot, I realized it was important to continue communicating, symbolically planting, watering, and weeding additional seeds of advocacy — wherever I could. It was a day of harvest for us; an emotional bumper crop of many years of laboring in the fields of life, for those who courageously live with constant challenges.
I believe these special individuals quietly beckon the rest of us to stand a little taller and be a little better. Hopefully, because of folks like Heidi, we’re becoming better human beings.
So tonight I’ll serve my hubby the last of those zucchini muffins. We’ll savor the yummy homemade, home-grown food. It’s another example helping me realize that by small and simple means, great things are coming to pass.
Keep it up, folks. It’s all good.
Pearson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org