Just a packet of seeds, wild violet seeds, was enough to change lives. Not ordinary everyday lives, but the despairing, hopeless lives of long term convicts.
We have just watched Greenfingers, a British movie based on a true story. Hardened prisoners were serving long sentences with no future ahead of them even when they were finally released. After all, who would employ a murderer? Yet one lifer who was dying of cancer gave a packet of seeds to another for Christmas. An inconsequential gift? At the most a friendly gesture.
But it was catalytic: nurturing the seeds cracked toughened shells. A group of prisoners got permission to create a garden. Their skill took them eventually to compete at the Chelsea Flower Show and wn a prestigious award. More than that, it change their identities. As one man said wonderingly, “I am not a convict, I am a gardener.” And that knowledge was the turn-around point.
One packet of wild violets sowed the seed of redemption. One small nudge can change a life. Anyone can give a packet of seeds – or say a kind word. Perhaps it is easier than we think to set off dominoes of change. And when has someone made some small gesture to us that has given us hope or reframed our self-image?
I remember at a party once talking to my hostess' father. Gnarled with arthritis, he told me about his day: the struggle just to get dressed, the lonely hours, the loss of his wife. The young swirled past, chattering – and he sat almost stunned by their energy. A bleak picture. What can one say that isn't trite? And then I looked again and saw the stubborn courage that carried on.
“What a wonderful example you are setting your grandchildren. Of courage and steadfastness,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied as if I had tapped some inner strength. “We mustn't let down the children!” And for the rest of the evening he sat taller, his shoulders back, his gaze purposeful.
Can we daily, as we pass by, look at our fellow travelers and give them a packet of wild violet seeds?
Green fingers the Movie: How Prison Inmates Learned How to Garden – link