The other day I planted the last of our tomato plants. In the middle of my frantic, time-pressed garden work, a friend from out of town dropped by as a complete surprise. I left everything strewn about the patio and we went inside for a cup of tea. That night, at 1:30 a.m., as thunder rolled across the sky, I sat up in bed and thought of all my seed packets outside in the rain. By 6:00 a.m. the next morning, I was awake, peeling open wet packages of seed and spreading them out to dry on our dining room table. The seeds made it into the ground with the effort and hope of something good to come. That afternoon, as I picked up from our day’s activities to prepare the table for an evening meal with friends, I balled up the leftover seeds and drying towels and started to discard them without thinking.
On that same day, I went shopping with my dear friend from Bosnia. I love our time together because we are companions who relax with one another, drink tea and talk about food, travel, and our husbands. Often, during the most ordinary times together, she shares a war story that somehow relates to our discussion of the day. Every time I hear her stories, I never fail to be astounded as I learn of the lengths they went to in order to survive a siege lasting four years.
During our time together, we talked about gardening. She told me how, during the war when they had no electricity or running water, her father learned how to grow a garden in the middle of Sarajevo. He cut down a tree in a cement courtyard next to their apartment building to use the wood as fuel and the soil beneath it to grow food. I asked, “Where did he get seeds in the center of a city in the middle of a war?” She said that seeds came in aid relief boxes from the U.N. And when their supply of seed ran out, her father ventured to the edge of the city to find people with enough land for garden plots and he pleaded for spare seeds. Each year their garden produced, they painstakingly dried and saved the seeds from everything. She said they grew potatoes, tomatoes, squashes and watermelons at a time when most people were eating freeze-dried army issued rations dropped from airplanes.
That afternoon, as I headed for our trash bin with the remaining seeds that I couldn’t be bothered planting, her words from just a few hours before resounded in my ears. I felt thoughtless, wasteful and ashamed. I hadn’t considered the true worth of seeds and I was instantly weighted with a simple conviction I’d never had before…soil + seed + the smallest amount of effort = available food. As a fledgling gardener and a struggling Christian, I had to welcome her piercing story as a powerful lesson of the value of a seed, and life itself.