A Weed in the Garden of Life

With my thoughts turned to gardening I came across an article the other day and after reading partway through it I went back and read it out loud to my daughter and two of my sons.  In the article a woman talks about her neighbor’s son who has had one problem after another, and she sums him up tidily saying, “He is a weed in the garden of life.”  When I read that phrase my son looked up and responded, “That is so wrong on so many levels.” And my daughter frowned and said, “She probably felt really clever with that description.”  My kids are adults in their thirties by the way, not idealistic teenagers.

And I (also an adult) found the expression painfully wrong.  Why?  Because a weed is an unwanted plant, a worthless plant, one that should be pulled up and discarded.  A weed should not be allowed to live and grow.  A weed chokes out desirable plants.  A weed is bad.  And humans are not weeds.

None of my kids took an easy path from childhood to adulthood.  They did not grow in the straight lines I laid out in my garden.  They came up where they weren’t supposed to be and they grew in their own ways.  I am sure they each felt like the weed in the garden of life at times growing up.  They have all reached adulthood successfully but they know what it is to stumble, to take a wrong turn, a misstep, to be considered less than desireable.  My second son summed it up fairly well yesterday when he said, “We all could have ended up in prison at some point, but  we were lucky, and we learned from our mistakes.”  (Prison, while a growth industry apparently, does not promote growth and should be avoided.) We have got to find better ways to reach out to friends, family, and our neighbor’s wayward son who is struggling—better ways than dismissal.  Dismissal helps no one.  It is painful. But it is a quick and and easy response, maybe even clever.  No need to get your hands dirty.  Pull out that weed, toss him on the heap.

What is a weed anyway?  That unwanted plant growing where it shouldn’t be.  Sunflowers are weeds along the side of the road.  Does that make them any less beautiful?  Plant sunflowers in the garden and no one calls them weeds. Perception defines the weed.   I wonder what might happen if we actually nourished the unwanted and unwatered, offered love rather than scorn.

It’s just a thought.

Another happy thought, I saw 6 of my kids this week and not a weed in the patch.


About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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