The little vegetable garden in my back yard is not glorious. It’s pathetic. The back yard doesn’t get enough sunlight for a vegetable garden, and I suspect that the soil is not that great. All of the plants are kind of small and struggling-looking. The phrase “failure to thrive” comes to mind. The sugar snap peas produced about a dozen pods before they gave up and withered, returning in resignation to the dirt. The collards were decimated by caterpillars; we might get greens for two meals. We picked a few sprigs of basil to garnish a couple of salads before the plants turned yellow and wilted, despite our careful watering. The carrots are tasty, but tiny. The same is true of the few cherry tomatoes that the plants managed to put forth before they dried up and turned brown.
When I walk by my neighbors’ gardens, sensibly planted in front yards where there is actually sunlight, I am astounded by their brazen fecundity. The plants are gigantic, lush and richly green, and the vegetables that hang heavily from them are large, juicy, brilliantly colored and plentiful. They are gorgeous and prolific. I inhale the scent of herbs wafting forth, and eye those huge, delicious-looking heirloom tomatoes with covetous envy, my mouth watering and my mind imagining what it would be like to bite into one. There have been times when I’ve glanced around to see if anyone is watching, calculating the likelihood of my ability to take a tomato without getting caught. But of course I know that is stealing and is wrong and I restrain myself and check my sinful thoughts.
My daughter’s attitude towards our garden is completely different. The carrots delight her, each one a unique and amazing secret hidden in the soil, to be marveled over when it is pulled up. The collard greens are a source of pride even though she doesn’t like greens. Same thing with the basil. It is “too spicy” for her tastes, but she loves helping me to pick it, smelling the strong, distinct odor that the newly-broken plants exude, and witnessing the obvious enjoyment with which Steven and I eat it. The few tiny tomatoes we managed to harvest were magnificent in her eyes, worth the long wait as they slowly changed from green to orange to red. But the sugar snap peas, those few little tiny pods that came months ago, in late spring … well … The child still talks about how delicious they were, how sweet their taste, how wonderful. In her mind, there is no deficiency in our garden, no lack.
If considering thievery from my neighbors’ gardens is indeed sinful, the origin of this sin lies in a much more deeply-rooted place in my heart. The true spiritual problem, the place where my soul’s distortion begins and the thoughts of my mind begin to miss the mark and go wrong, lies in how I view my own garden. Why do I think it is pathetic? From this comes my sense of lack, my sense of not having enough – not enough tomatoes, not enough sunlight or space in my yard, not enough time or energy to move the garden to the front. My thoughts are of scarcity, and I fail to see the goodness that is right before my eyes. From this stems forth my envy and covetousness.
The problem lies deep within, but I can change the garden of my heart. I can choose how I fertilize the soil, which seedlings I will and will not nourish, what kinds of thoughts I allow to take root and thrive. When I let go of my expectations of what a vegetable garden should be and look at our garden with my daughter’s eyes, sharing in her enthusiasm and delight, my entire attitude changes. I am filled with my own sense of wonder and joy about the gifts that our little backyard garden has provided, and I am deeply content. I no longer think that our garden is pathetic. I no longer envy my neighbors. I no longer covet what they have, even as I walk by their impressive gardens full of copious vegetables. I like my own garden, and appreciate what it gives my family. Our little backyard garden, that small patch of soil, is transformed from a place of lack into a source of abundance. I find that I am filled with joy not only about my garden, but also about my yard, my house, my family, my life. I am filled with Gratitude.