At our host family orientation for AFS, one of the activities involved looking at a bunch of small plants and describing all the difference. The cacti ware different than the leafy plants different still from the flowering ones. And even within a variety of categories each plant on the table was still unique… different colors, shapes, etc.
We used these plants to discuss difference in the teenagers who would be coming to join each of our homes. Even putting aside the fact that they’re coming from different cultures and countries, each student is already unique with their own personality, experiences, and outlook on life.
While some common things are needed to help plants grow… water, light, air, etc… each plant is unique. Some plants need direct sunlight while others need shade. Something like grass needs water multiple times a day when it first starts growing from seeds. while other plants… well let’s just say I might have killed a few plants with too much water. Different temperatures and climates also help various plants thrive.
Once again, the same is true of the students who came through AFS this year. All need attention, love, food, support, shelter, encouragement, and more. But it’s not a one-size-fits all thing. What works for one student doesn’t work for others. The key is paying attention and being intentional.
Throughout this year my little plant on the kitchen counter, taken home from that first host parent orientation, has reminded me of that.
Thankfully it’s a pretty forgiving plant. It needs attention but seems to bounce back pretty well if it gets neglected. However not without a few lost leaves. Like my relationship with Elisa I must pay attention to it, watching for signs when more care is necessary. I must be intentional about not letting things go on auto-pilot as we go through the year and find some routines. I must take time each day to water our relationship. I must be attentive to areas in her life where a little extra care and attention would be helpful. I must help get rid of any “dead leaves” between us so new ones can thrive.
I can’t help but think this morning about how God does the same with his children. Each of us are created in His image, yet unique. He doesn’t treat us all with cookie cutter responses. Rather, He carefully tends our hearts and minds with intentionality based upon what He knows we each need. He gives a little more water or a little less sun; He prunes when necessary even if it hurts Him to see us Hurt. The Master Gardener knows exactly what we need today. Not only does He know what we need, He will provide.
So many great reminders to start a new week all from one little plant on the kitchen counter.