I ran into a former pastor of St. Paul’s, George Hanusa, at Wartburg’s Homecoming last weekend. We talked right away of the lasting gift he gave me the first year I was principal here. He and his wife, Janet, had come into the school after visiting the church. He told me the story of Mrs. Strike, a former third grade teacher at St. Paul’s, who gave her students, one of whom was his daughter Ellen, seeds she had harvested from her Four O’clock flowers forty years ago. The Hanusa’s and their daughter planted the seeds. They continued harvesting and planting seeds for over forty years. He said, “I have some in my car, would you like them?” I replied enthusiastically that I would indeed. For you see, Mrs. Strike, as I had learned had the gift of cultivating a sense of curiosity in her students. When Pastor Hanusa returned from the car, he presented me with a little glass jar with black round seeds. This is what I did.
That spring when the 6th grade students graduated, I gave each of them a little baggie with four seeds with a note explaining Pastor Hanusa’s gift. The instructions were that the 6th grade graduates would follow Ellen Hanusa’s lead and plant and harvest their seeds. Well, this past spring, when it was time for the 6th grade graduation again, Dr. Joy Becker, the mom of our 6th grade graduate, Daniel, presented me with a baggie of Four O’clock seeds that they had harvested off the plants that had been the seeds from her older son’s 6th grade graduation two years earlier. Wow!! Seeds…real seeds continuing to be planted and harvested. The cycle has not been broken for over 45 years now. What a living legacy to Mrs. Strike.
Many years ago, and I KNOW I have told you this story, I was leaving the YMCA in Forest City one morning when the receptionist handed me a packet of seeds to commemorate the Y’s 10th anniversary. The kind of seeds in the packet were Shasta Daisies. I squealed with delight, for it does not take much to make me out of control enthusiastic, and said, “Shasta Daisies? I LOVE Shasta Daisies!”
The receptionist replied, “Well, they come up in places you don’t even want them!” And another soul behind me said, “Yes, they come up in places you don’t even plant them.” Oh, my!! The thunderous wisdom in that quiet comment has resonated in me since that day. They come up in places you don’t even plant them.
How important it is to live with intention, for you never know where the seeds of your words, your actions, your gifts of love or joy or empathy, may fall. You never know how God will nourish those seeds tossed from your lips or hands to someone on your path. You never know where they will be rooted for a lifetime…good or bad seeds. What will you do? It brings to mind the Sunday School song from long ago, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see…Oh be careful little hands what you do…Oh be careful little tongue what you say…for the God up above is looking down in love, so be careful…”
I hope in 40 years that the seeds of my life will have been nourished for goodness in spite of the failings and mistakes I have made. As the prophet Isaiah said, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
We can plant, just as the Hanusas and Beckers planted those little Four O’clock seeds from Mrs. Strike. But the most important lesson from the seeds is that we then trust..trust the nature of God for you never know if they will come up in places you don’t even plant them.