I harvested my first cantaloupe today.
I ordered heirloom cantaloupe seeds from a specialty supplier. They promised a delicious, sweet, fragrant fruit of superior quality.
I started the seedlings in a flat growing tray. I used sterile, fertile soil made that was formulated especially for starting seeds. I tended them carefully, making sure they got optimal sun during the day and were sheltered from cold weather at night. When the seedlings were well-established, I transferred them to a nice, sunny spot in the garden. I faithfully watered them every day. I fertilized them occasionally, too.
I don't know why I was so surprised when the vines first grew pretty yellow flowers, and then I noticed little cantaloupes growing! I was so excited!
I was expecting the fruit to grow much larger, so I thought harvest was a few weeks away. But then, several days ago, one of them started to turn yellow. Yesterday, I thought I would check to see whether it might be ready to pick. To my surprise, when I touched the cantaloupe, it rolled right off the stem!
I picked up the little thing in my hand and smelled it. It had a mild fragrance that smelled like a fruity perfume. I took it inside, along with the rest of what I picked that morning.
I could hardly wait to cut it! But I decided to wait and share it with my family for breakfast.
So, this morning when I prepared breakfast, I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and peeled and sliced the little thing. Then, we sat down to to eat this cantaloupe, fresh from our garden. I was imagining how much better it would be than the store-bought variety. I was so excited when I took the first bite of this cantaloupe I had grown in my very own garden!
Boom! What a disappointment!
Not only was it not sweet, not fragrant, and not particularly flavorful, but the flavor it did have seemed to taste like chemicals! If it had been a store-bought cantaloupe, I would have thrown it away immediately! Instead of throwing it away immediately, I ate a few more bites and made my child take a taste. Then I said, "OK, we have tried it! We can put the rest in the compost heap!"
But I also thought, there really is a lesson in life here. Not just for growing cantaloupe, but for growing anything! Here is the lesson:
GOOD SOIL IS IMPORTANT!
You see, I had planted the cantaloupe in sand. Yes, I had watered it. Yes, I had fertilized it. But these measures were not enough to overcome the original deficiency of the soil it was planted in. I had supplied some water and some nutrients. The plant survived, but it didn't thrive as it could have. It didn't receive the rich variety of nutrients and minerals, in just the right amounts, that would have made this plant strong and the fruit delectable. Without good soil, it was impossible for the plant to reach its full potential.
I now, if I may, let me carry this a bit further. It is not just fruits and vegetables and things we grow in gardens that need good soil. Children need good soil, too!
Whether we are parents, or not, all of us have opportunity to help create the soil that the children of our world grow in. Will we provide an environment where they will thrive, or will we merely throw in enough nutrients that they survive? That is a choice we make not only as parents, but as a community and as a society.
On a personal level, we can nurture children by supplying the good soil of positive comments, positive guidance, constructive discipline, encouragement of their interests and abilities, providing them with opportunities. On a community level, we can volunteer to help with activities related to children. We can mentor. We can tutor. We can personally support the schools and teachers, churches and community organizations that provide services to children. On a national and policy level, we can take positions and advocate for policies that protect our children and serve the interests of nurturing the next generation. We can even (heaven forbid!) lobby on behalf of the social institutions that support and protect our children.
Think about it. Our children are our future. They are relying on us to provide the soil that is needed for their optimal development. Yes, we can throw some fertilizer and throw some water on the seeds and think we have done a good job, but have we really? Have we really plowed the earth and created an environment that is nurturing for every child? Or have we instead merely paid lip service to the idea of doing what is right?