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Planting Seeds

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April 2021

From our early days we have been taught to tell the truth. Great lesson. But every once in a while, there’s nothing wrong with a little good-natured exaggeration. We all like stories, the bolder the better. And so one of the most endearing forms of American folk literature has been the tall tale. Long before the Avengers hit the screen, there was superhero lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox Babe.
Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Many remember Johnny Appleseed, the kindly man who wore a sack, walked shoeless, and dropped apple seeds far and wide. Although somewhat idealized, he wasn’t made up. His name was John Chapman, born in Massachusetts shortly before the Revolutionary War. He was an outdoors nurseryman, a religious man who deeply loved nature. John—or Johnny—wouldn’t harm a fly. He put out his own campfire so flittering mosquitoes wouldn’t burn. And yes, he planted apple seeds in grounds from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Illinois, and even in Canada. But he didn’t just spread seeds. An itinerant preacher, he spread his gospel wherever he went.

As Johnny showed us, seed planting goes far beyond the ones in apples. Man’s greatest accomplishments have started with seeds. The seeds were ideas, many times just momentary thoughts. Somewhere along the line, one thought turned to another. Thoughts grew into commitments, which grew into dedicated efforts, followed by setbacks, re-starts, and ultimately the flowering triumph of achievement.

Our seeds are not just ideas.  They are also attitudes. These can be seeds of gratitude or  ingratitude. Seeds of hard work or seeds of laziness. Seeds or contentedness or covetousness.  Seeds of joy or misery. Seeds of compassion or seeds of uncaring. Seeds of service or selfishness. And like the seeds of our ideas, our seeds of attitude take root and grow, whether for good or for bad. They grow into actions, which grow into habits, which grow into character, which grow into destiny.  So we need to plant the right seeds. For we reap what we sow, and the harvest can be with us for a long time.

Our attitudes can be more than personal to an individual. They can also be cultural. Those attitudes quickly spread from one community to the next—almost like the dandelion seeds that blow through the air to who knows where. And like dandelions, they’re not always good. For one, we are losing the sense of God and His involvement in our lives. It goes beyond our failure to attend Mass or church services. It’s His removal from our homes and workplaces, the conscious exclusion of His Name in conversation.  It’s our ingratitude for the gifts He showers on us daily, our outright refusal to acknowledge that He helps us at all.

When we ignore God, we ignore others. That’s reflected in our ever-growing desire for self-gratification. More and more, our lives are about ourselves, not others. We focus on getting more—money, status, power, you name it—things that though not bad in themselves ignore the needs of others. We are at the point, and have been there for a while, that we justify killing those whose lives hinder our personal pursuits. This attitude reaches its fullness in legal abortion. In great measure, we have rejected the truth that we are responsible for our conduct. Our cultural attitude is that if unwanted life gets in our way, that life may be thrown away. The attitude is now deeply rooted in our country.

At greatest risk of harm are our children and grandchildren. Their minds and hearts are the most fertile of all ground. They absorb whatever they hear and see. And every day they are being bombarded with sights, sounds, and messages. The bombardment places tremendous emphasis on getting and taking, little emphasis on giving. In our schools, kids are being taught at ever-earlier ages about sexual experimentation. And when experimentation leads to pregnancies, they will learn—the hard way—about abortion.

We must fight back by planting healthy, moral attitudes in our kids, the sooner the better.  A great place to start is in our gardens, places teeming with life. This spring, buy a packet of flower or vegetable seeds—and teach. Think of the lessons. Life starts out very small, not even recognizable. Patience is needed, for blooms take time. Nurturing the seeds and grounds is a must. Get the kids involved in the garden. Let them be excited about seeing the flowers open or tasting the harvest they helped produce.  As the kids age, help them to understand the threats from weeds. Teach them about the work necessary to make a garden bloom. They will be learning about sacrifice. There are so many teaching moments for which words may even not be necessary. For you will be reaching their hearts with the beauty of life, and that’s the goal. If we reach their hearts, the message will stay: life is good, and life must be protected.

A long, cold lonely winter is over. Spring is here. Easter is just days away. So we remember what Jesus told us—unless a grain of wheat is planted in the ground, it cannot produce abundantly. We remember that He rose just as He said. Easter gives us hope for a new beginning, a real change. In the cultural weed patch all around us, there is still room for the beauty of life. In a well-tended garden, the good will push out much of the bad. It just takes our effort to plant and nurture the right seeds.

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.
    © Paul V. Esposito 2021.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us at and on Facebook.

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