My husband and I bought impatiens this past Saturday.
We’re not exactly gardeners. Neither of us have ever actually grown flowers. But now that we have a yard of our own, we decided to give it a go. Some googling told me that impatiens are some of the easiest flowers out there, so that’s what we got.
I was still a little worried when we got them home.
They were drooping and looked terribly fragile, to the point that I shucked the gardening gloves I’d been using for the herbs to pot them with my own two hands. Little showers of dirt knocked the petals down. By the time I actually got them in the pot, some of them – resigned, I guess, to the process – had stretched out along the soil like they were exhausted. “They’re supposed to be fine,” I said to my husband, and eyed them worriedly when I watered them. “The internet said they were easy.”
I woke up Sunday expecting to find sad, wilting, droopy little flowers. But to my surprise, when my husband and I stepped out for church, every flower in the pot had popped up to stand tall, stretching for the sun. My impatiens looked alive again. I was impressed and more than a little proud of them. And of me!
Still, my initial impression of those bedraggled flowers stayed with me. There are so many people I know who seem to feel like my impatiens looked on Saturday as I tried to pot them: droopy, wilting, fragile, exhausted. Petals dragging the dirt. I was reminded of it again just today when I had to run outside and rescue my herb garden from a ridiculous amount of soaking rain that threatened to flood it from the pot.
It occurs to me that spring, too, is a hard season.
We tend to save our encouragement and our comforts for special times: for the bereaved and the lonely at Christmas, for the motherless on Mother’s Day. But pain and loss and struggle does not dissipate as the holidays come and go; it remains, and it lingers, and it hurts all year long.
The good news is that, as with my flowers, a little bit of effort goes a long way. With some water and sun they were all right again – and though a little bit of encouragement can’t erase or mend grief, or offer practical help to someone going through a trial, it can bring color back into the world and offer up some much needed sunshine. It can make a world of difference for someone struggling along simply to be remembered.
As we enter in the spring and summer season with its barbecues and gardening and festivals, keep in mind the people you tried hard not to forget at Thanksgiving, at Christmas, and on Mother’s Day. They are tired. They are hurting. And the “ordinariness” of the spring season can feel particularly heavy for them as the rest of the world just goes on spinning. Write a note. Send a card. Pray with them or for them. Offer a smile.
And maybe take them some flowers, if you want. If I can grow impatiens, anyone can.