The pastor was talking about a familiar parable the other day. I know some of you aren’t big Bible fans, but this particular story is worth some thought regardless of your religious persuasion.
So it seems there was a guy with seeds who decided his planting technique was pretty much to let it fly. He grabbed a handful, whipped it into the wind and let the seeds fall where they may. And then he grabbed another handful of seeds and continued throwing and grabbing until his seed bag was empty.
As with all types of planting, nothing happened at first — a good farmer is patient beyond all good sense. And not surprisingly with this haphazard technique, the seeds fell in places that weren’t necessarily conducive to healthy plant growth.
Some of the seeds fell in random spots such as well-beaten trails, and birds turned many of those seeds into afternoon lunch.
Some of the seeds fell on stony ground; without much dirt, the seeds sprouted but their roots couldn’t grow deeply, and the hot sun fried many that had grown.
Some of the seeds fell among weeds and thorns, so as the seeds grew, the weeds grew even faster, choking out what the sower had planted.
And some of the seeds fell on good soil, and that ideal growing condition yielded great crops and lots of return for the sower.
The question the pastor asked that day was simple: Why the random planting technique, knowing full well that a good portion of the seeds weren’t getting a good start in life? Why not carefully plant each seed in good dirt, ensuring a better chance of growth and success?
His conclusion (or at least my interpretation of his conclusion): The sower’s job is simply to spread the seeds, mindless of where they land, because even though the odds aren’t great for seeds that land on trails, stones or among weeds, the odds of successful growth aren’t zero, either. And, just maybe, the seeds that had to fight their way to growth may wind up heartier and produce more than the seeds that found their way onto easy street.
That was an interpretation I hadn’t considered, but it made sense. Not every seed carefully planted in good soil lives, either, so why should all of the attention go to those seeds already getting a head start in life?
The same can be said of our neighborhood, too. There are good and, shall we say, less good spots in and around us, but we aren’t called upon to decide which of our neighbors succeeds or fails. Our job, as neighbors, is to do our best to encourage success in all quarters, because just as a rising tide lifts all boats, open-minded service to our city gives all of us the best chance to benefit.
It’s frustrating, though. Look at who voted, or mostly who didn’t, in the recent city council elections: More than 9 out of 10 of us decided voting wasn’t worth the trouble. I’ve seen a few explanatory theories advanced, but the best came from a reader who suggested that too many of us have decided that no matter what we do, government and politics will continue to smother us with idiocy, greed and whining.
So why do anything?
Suppose the sower in the parable had taken that approach, giving up before he started and deciding not to plant anything? If nothing is ever planted, at some point, nothing grows.
That doesn’t seem like a good way to begin celebrating a holiday that encourages individual freedom and celebrates those who sowed seed for us in the past.