Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Gardener

I posted this last week on my writer's group blog, but wanted to share it here as well. Enjoy!

I read The Gardener to my kids recently, an inspiring children’s story about a young girl’s courage and optimism in the face of adversity. Lydia Grace Finch is forced to leave her family’s farm and move to the city with her unsmiling Uncle Jim who owns a bakery. Her parents and grandmother grieve as she boards the train. Arriving in the bleak city, Lydia Grace puts her green thumb to work embellishing the barren apartment and bakery with overflowing window boxes. At the end of the story, Lydia Grace’s secret gift to her Uncle is revealed as he opens the door to his building’s top floor: the once ugly, littered flat roof is transformed into an outrageous, flowering oasis. Lydia Grace’s steady and deliberate tending of the window boxes and the top-story garden not only beautify the barren city building, but also draws customers into the bakery. This young girl’s contagious optimism and hard work touch an entire community.
It’s a difficult book to read aloud without having your voice crack with emotion a time or two.
Kind of like when I think of my college roommate and dear friend, Jessica Brogdon, who left the safety and familiarity of Little Rock, Arkansas and moved to Kigali, Rwanda with her husband and children a couple of years ago. Jessica, an only child, lived about half a mile from her parents. But when the Lord said “go,” Todd and Jessica - and their precious children - went. With courage and optimism Jessica loaded her family’s belongings into a crate to be shipped to Kigali, Rwanda.
They will come home this spring. But in a seemingly unproductive environment, Jessica and her family have left their hand prints along the way. In the Brogdons’ wake, struggling Rwandans - especially women - will have opportunities through an established micro-lending bank to not only survive but thrive. Jobs for locals were created. A Rwandan church has an increased budget because of a couple of Americans helped with fundraising. Precious preschoolers and young children have been taught and hugged and loved through Jessica’s teaching. Young American teachers have found a family away from home. Jessica’s dear friend Chantal not only received a well-paying job for the past couple of years, but her family will be moving into a nice new home rather than facing life on the streets. There’s even a new little Rwandan “Ben” running around, four-year-old Ben Brogdon’s namesake.
The Brogdons have ministered to countless Rwandans around them, soaking in the culture and capturing these people in their hearts. And as they head back home to Little Rock, a small community in Kigali will forever be a little changed.
It’s no wonder Sarah Stewart's The Gardener was awarded a Caldecott Medal. To read a story of courage and optimism in the face of fear and unfamiliarity can change our lives. It changes our perspective, allows us to reevaluate what we think is daunting and scary in our own lives, and then inspires us to work hard and faithfully until the community around us is made a little more beautiful.
To see transformation as a result of sacrifice pulls at our hearts because it is Truth lived out. Centuries ago, Someone faced an overwhelming situation. He felt incredible fear and dread, but because of great love forged courageously ahead to complete a difficult task and then return to His Father. And in His wake, an entire world with all its generations was touched and made more beautiful.