All it took was a question. “Would you like some tomatoes?” My neighbor looked at both containers I had in my hand, one the size of a frozen whipped topping container and the other an ice cream bucket. Both filled to the top with cherry tomatoes. My neighbor took the bigger bucket. It took me by surprise.
That afternoon prior to this exchange, I had been working in my garden. I had spent more than an hour picking hundreds of tomatoes from the three “Sweet 100” cherry tomato plants I had planted earlier that spring. It was hot. It was humid. I was sweaty and couldn’t wait to go inside and drink an ice cold glass of lemonade. But instead, I decided to share. Be kind. Be generous.
Well, that didn’t work out so well.
For so long, this story has stuck in my mind as a story of “How could they?” How could my neighbor reach out and grab the bucket with five times more tomatoes in it? How could my neighbor really think that was okay? Didn’t my neighbor realize I had spent a long afternoon in the hot sun (okay – an hour)? Shouldn’t my neighbor have known that when someone comes to your house offering free food, you don’t reach for the most you can get?
I now realize I had it all wrong.
After all, I was able to continue picking those fruits from the tomato vines all summer long. I had enough. And this was my neighbor’s chance to really savor the taste of freshly picked cherry tomatoes. As a newly certified registered dietitian at the time, who was I to complain that I was helping someone eat more fruits and vegetables?
Tomatoes produce bumper crops. Buckets and buckets. Especially those Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes. Tomatoes meant for sharing to your neighbors. Tomatoes that are so sweet, they burst with flavor with the first bite.
Of course, you need the right kind of soil to grow buckets and buckets of tomatoes.
Loamy soil. Loamy soil is a mixture of mostly sand and silt with a small amount of clay. Creating loamy soil is not as simple as adding bags of sand. To create the best soil for gardening, the best thing to add is organic matter. Living matter to fertilize the soil. Grass clippings, leaves, vegetable and fruit peels, newspaper…all the right ingredients to creating good soil.
While I had the right kind of soil in my garden, I’m not so sure I had the right type of soil surrounding my heart.
I was aiming for generosity, but silently being selfish.
I was on the outside trying to make myself feel good for my good deed. But on the inside I was irritated that I felt taken advantage of.
I had to reset my thoughts. I harvested buckets of tomatoes all season long. We had enough.
These fruits I had harvested off the tomato vines were similar to the fruits I could harvest from the Spirit. The Fruits of the Spirit. Those Fruits include kindness.
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galations 5: 22-23.
Grow buckets of tomatoes and kindness at the same time with these simple steps:
- Dig down deep. Tomato plants actually do better when 2/3 of the plant is buried into the soil upon planting so they develop better and stronger root systems. I can also be reminded that while on the surface I may not be as kind as I would like to be, I can dig a little deeper to find it. I can develop stronger roots by connecting to God’s words.
- Avoid the cold. Tomato plants are easily damaged by the cool weather. When I am unkind, it’s like cool air to a tomato plant. I can cause damage and cause things to shrivel and die. Unkindness is cold, not warm. I want to be warm and welcoming.
- Look for the sun. Tomatoes love the sun, needing at least 8 hours every day. Kindness requires the Son too. As much as you can get. No sunscreen needed.
- Water thirsty roots. Tomatoes require an even supply of water throughout the season. Enough water allows tomatoes to grow and thrive and produce buckets. When I am discontent, I believe it’s because I am thirsty. I can’t produce creativity, energy or kindness if I am thirsty. I’m growing to know that my when I make time to linger in the mornings with this fruit of the spirit verse, read from the Word or take time to journal, I become more satisfied.
- Cages keep things contained. Tomatoes require cages because as they grow they can’t support their own weight. It’s true for me too. I can’t do life all by myself, I need good people surrounding me, supporting me and helping me stand.
While planting seeds and plants in my garden allows me to grow food for my family (and neighbors, of course!), gardening also reminds me of my own growth as a person. Seeds are being planted and eventually I will harvest the fruits. It will take awhile, but eventually I will become the person I am meant to be. A down-to-earth girl growing towards God.
I would love to know your thoughts or if this inspired you in any way. Please share in the comments!