What Grows in Your Garden?

Mike McGough
August 2023

He is a meanderer.  When something catches his eye, he is drawn to it like a magnet.  A trip to the store for two or three items can take four to five hours.  Oh, he almost always gets what he goes for, but on the way, he makes numerous other stops.  He ends up getting at least a half-dozen things that aren’t on his shopping list, just because he saw them.  If he spots something along the road that someone has set out for free, and he thinks he may someday have some use for it, it ends up in the bed of his truck. 

He knows lots of people, so there’s generally a couple of his hey-how-you-doin’ stops along the way.  Depending on what’s growing in his garden, he may also drop off some tomatoes or a squash or two to someone on his travels.  He enjoys helping people, so he may also be picking something up or dropping something off for someone who needs his help.  And then there’s always a refreshment stop or two.  This guy gives the word “snacks” a broad interpretation, he pursues snacks with meaningful intent, and he makes finding them enjoyably purposeful.  Needless to say, he’s a tad overweight.

His kids and later his grandkids found ride-alongs entertaining.  When they were young and had nothing better to do for a few hours, they were great.  A ride-along was a mini-adventure, on which his unsuspecting passengers had little or no idea how long they’d be out or where all they’d end up going. 

From time to time, a ride-along also produces a unique opportunity for a life lesson.  He seizes such opportunities with both hands, always believing in the value of experiential learning.  Not so long ago, one particular mini-adventure produced such an opportunity about the virtue of kindness. 

His passenger that day had been out on such jaunts many times before, and this outing started out like so many others.  He said he was going to pick up some prescriptions and get a paper.  That seemed simple and should have taken no more than twenty minutes.  Three and a half hours later, they were back home.  They did get the prescriptions and the paper, but they did so much more. 

He bought six sets of screwdrivers that were on sale at the hardware, where he stopped because not every store has Pay Day candy bars, his favorite.  He noticed he was short on cash, so they stopped by the bank for a quick withdrawal, then they sat in the parking lot of the bank and chatted with an old colleague for a bit.  He heard on the radio that there was going to be a meteor shower that evening, so they stopped to get some marshmallows to toast over the fire they’d build while looking for shooting stars.  They were near the post office, so they stopped to get the mail.  Since they were close, he decided to run the truck through the car wash.  (I suppose in his case it was a truck wash!)  It had been a pleasant ride so far, and it was clearly time for some fries and a drink. 

At the drive-up, he ordered two medium fries and two drinks, and a small cup of ketchup for the fries.   The abrupt and somewhat rude response was, “We can’t do that, we only have packets, pull forward.”  When he paid, it was clear the attendant was angered by his request, having a bad day, or just someone fresh out of kindness.

When they pulled up to the window to get their food, the manager on duty appeared with two small cups of ketchup, handed them out the window, and said, “Enjoy your fries.”  He thanked her, and as they pulled away, his young passenger said, “That was kind of her.”  He saw the opportunity for a lesson, and he didn’t let it pass.

As they sat in the lot, enjoying their fries and watching cars go by, he shared that lesson.  “You know in each of us there’s a mythical garden.  It’s where our virtues live.  It’s where those things that make us who we are and determine how we treat others take root, grow, and bloom.  Everybody’s garden is a little different.  Some people seem to grow more of some virtues than others, and some folks seem to have more weeds than blossoms in theirs.  Sadly, kindness is not a flower that blooms in everybody’s garden, or it’s choaked out by the weeds they allow to take over.  Fortunately, most people have seeds of kindness in their virtue gardens, they nourish them frequently, and they share the blossoms often!”

Is kindness flourishing in your virtue garden?