My wife and I have a painting in our living room that reads, “Grow Where You Are Planted.” It’s not displayed very prominently, so I don’t notice it on a regular basis. When I do notice it though, its message often causes me to pause — which is usually the last thing I want to be reminded to do. There is a great deal at stake within those five words. There is caution. There is invitation. There is conviction. There is an unwanted, but timely and gentle, reminder to be attentive to the present moment.
With its ebbs and flows of homework, papers, projects and exams, the college calendar is not exactly a reminder to grow where we’re planted. If we track with the syllabus, we’re looking and working ahead to the next “big thing.” In my role as a resident director, the mantra, “If I can just make it through these couple of days…or this week…or these next two weeks…I’ll be okay,” is uttered on a regular basis. Recently I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and came across a Tweet that reminded me of this exact sentiment: “I feel like every week I’m just like, ‘I just need to make it through this week.’” Even if that’s not true for you right now, my guess is that it might have been true for you recently.
But bigger than the demands of the academic schedule are the ever-pressing demands of being a young adult who has a life outside the four walls of the classroom. For some it’s financial stress, for others it might be the failing health of a close friend or family member. Whatever the circumstance, we’re all surrounded by things in our lives that cause us to look ahead to when we’re “past this” or to look back to “when things were easier or simpler.”
However, when we’re in a constant state of, “What’s the next thing that needs my attention?” or “I wish I could go back to when I had fewer things to worry about,” we’re robbed of the ability to live into each moment of each day as we experience it. Our urgent attention usually goes to the last thing or the next thing, not the present thing.
To grow where we are planted is to be resolute in living fully into each day we’re given. My friend Nancy put it this way, “To be present in the present is a present.” To be, as the Gospel writers put it, “Awake,” in each moment of the day, not looking ahead to what’s next or looking back to what was, is a gift. The HU community is a gift. Conversations with friends over dinner are a gift. The ability to think and reason and communicate is a gift. Having to walk a few extra steps to get to your car in F-Lot is a gift. Chapel services are a gift. Being compassionate and kind is a gift. Receiving compassion and kindness is a gift.
To grow where you are planted could mean a myriad of things to you depending on your season in life. But at a very basic level, I hope it can be an invitation to slow down, take a deep breath, recognize God in all things and in all people, and to receive a number of gifts you didn’t even realize you were being given.
Andy Vaught is a resident director of Wright Hall. This column reflects the views of the writer only.