My mom and I share an interest in flower gardening. Over the years, she has given me many “starts” from her perennial gardens, and I try my best to keep them alive. Sometimes it works, other times I am forced to take the walk of shame from the flowerbed to the garbage can to toss the feckless, fruitless, failure into the bin.
A few years back she gifted me with one of her “money plants” that grew for years in wispy waves in the flowerbed along her garage. I always admired the cuttings she made from the plants every fall. Delicate, pearlescent silver dollars dangled from tall stems in a vase on her table. No additional flowers were needed to brighten the arrangement— these beauties made a bold enough statement on their own.
With that vision in my head, I planted her silver dollar money plants along my garage too, and took special care not to kill them. Turns out, these plants are hard to kill. In fact, given even slightly reasonable conditions, they will multiply. Massively. Like dirty laundry in the corners of your kids’ rooms. By the following fall, I had more than enough plants to create my own stunning centerpieces.
But there was a problem: My silver dollars weren’t luminous white discs. They were ugly, bumpy and brown! They looked dead. Oh no, I thought. Here comes another shameful trek to the garbage can. Stupid plants. What did I do wrong? I couldn’t figure it out. My money plants all died back over the winter, with no chance to adorn my table.
Calling in the Plant Calvary
The next year, I was determined to do better. The prolific plants doubled in number again! But when the end of summer came along I was in the same frustrating boat, staring with furrowed brow at a sad crop of dry, wrinkly pods. That’s it, I decided. Time to call in the plant cavalry (i.e., my mom).
What she told me on the phone first made me fall silent. And then it made me smile. And then it made me laugh for a good long time.
I had been missing a very important piece of knowledge. I dashed outside to snag a stem of silver dollars and pinched a pod between my finger and thumb. Then I slid my fingers back and forth, ever so gently, and voila! The unattractive outer layer fell away and revealed the lustrous shiny coin I was yearning for. The ugliness that I had scorned for two seasons was merely a protective covering— a botanical bodyguard— that hid the fragile beauty beneath it.
Quick to Judge Instead of Love
Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes, Sistas? I pondered the notion in my prayer journal: We can be so quick to make judgments and come to conclusions that turn out to be so wrong. And I’m not talking just plants here, of course. Whether it’s the mom who is consistently late to her children’s events, or the co-worker who is struggling to stay awake, or the child who is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, we have to remember we are looking only at the unpleasant outer layer. We don’t know if there’s an elderly parent’s care making the mom late, or an abusive spouse situation creating the co-worker’s exhaustion, or a special needs diagnosis causing the child’s behavior. Only the outer layer is visible to us in that moment of time.
God has made us all in his image. We are unique, fabulous creations of His— no two of us are alike! Yet we live in a fallen world with challenges, complexities, and outright sin. These factors can give us an uninviting outer shell and can also hastily cloud our initial perception of others. The foggy glasses of snap judgment can prevent us from seeing the beauty that most certainly exists right below the surface of each one of us. I, for one, don those foggy glasses of snap judgment wayyyy too often.
Saint Mother Teresa teaches us, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” So let’s give each other a break, shall we? We all have struggles, we all have faults, we are all sinners. Let’s look beyond the outer layer, avoid snap judgments and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Better yet, let’s show some love. Let’s vow to save a seat for that latecomer, bring a cup of coffee to that co-worker, and give an empathetic smile to the frazzled mom in the grocery store.
People, like plants, deserve a deeper look.
Mary Beth is a 50-something magazine editor, a family humor columnist and an author, but her favorite form of writing is prayer journaling. Praying with a pen every morning for years
dramatically strengthened her spiritual life, even drawing her back home to the fullness of the Catholic Church after several decades away! She recently published a book with Beacon
Publishing/Dynamic Catholic titled, “Praying with a Pen—the Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling.” Married for 30+ years to her witty and wonderful husband, she’s a mom to two adult children: one a seminarian studying in Rome and the other a happily married school social worker who promoted Mary Beth to grandma status in March of 2018. Mary Beth is a member of her church choir, loves to sing at big Catholic weddings and has recently begun facilitating Catholic book studies and retreats for women. With a background in corporate communications and marketing and a Master’s degree in Business and Organizational Leadership, she has spoken to over 100 groups on the topics of leadership, family humor, writing and prayer journaling. Mary Beth has a borderline unhealthy attachment to her little dog, Sammy and, when the mood strikes her, she blogs about prayer journaling (and Sammy) at www.prayingwithapen.com.