community, gardening

Tiny acts of defiance

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” Mother Teresa, Christian, despair-defying firebrand

The maker who took the time to create a lacy border on these butter-colored pillowcases probably didn’t imagine they’d still be making someone happy decades later. But her act of hope is still sending out ripples.

On Sept. 12, 2001, I gave myself an interesting journalistic assignment. I drove and drove around my newspaper’s coverage area — sometimes talking to people, mostly just watching — trying to get a clear picture of what people were doing the day after America was so shockingly attacked by terrorists.

There were flags. Everywhere. More than I had ever seen before. But, there was also a great deal of gardening going on, more than I had ever seen on even the finest Saturdays of spring. People were down in the dirt on their hands and knees weeding and mulching.

I got the message then, even though I was too young to fully appreciate it. Men gripped by evil may have stolen, killed and destroyed. But, by the grace of God, Appalachian gardens weren’t going to pot with them.

Now, having aged past the point of believing I can fix the world, I see it more fully for what it was. A tiny act of defiance. Not against a person or a system — but a small arrow of defiance aimed straight at the despair and hopelessness today’s world is so terribly good at generating.

They were right, these gardeners. Tiny acts of defiance work and are rather satisfying. Try it, and I think you’ll agree.

Write a thank you note. Smile at a teenager, an old man with a cane, a young person working hard for not enough money. Do something for free. Show up with pie. Make something beautiful. Fraternize with a lonely dog stuck behind a fence. Wear fire-engine red on a dreary day. Grow sunflowers or watermelons or something equally outrageous. Pack your groceries into canvas bags. Pray.

That last one is particularly important. Is there anything more defiant in a darkening world than to pray?

So, let us go out there and live with hope and joy and defiance. We cannot fix the world. No one but God can do that. But, we can hold a bit of sway.

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