I often dream big. My dreams by turns motivate me, over-inflate my ego (as if I could really single-handedly hope to save the world!), or overwhelm me by their enormity.
I got a lesson in the practicality of dreams in my own backyard this summer.
Remember, I was all excited about the big garden plot we'd rented from the park district? Never mind my puny little tomato/bean/herbs in the backyard, been there, done that. I had big dreams this summer for the pumpkins, cantaloupe, zucchini, 13 tomato plants, and rows and rows of beans. It was to be a grand, successful experiment by two city kids.
Well, this is what the (tenderly cared for?) plot 77 turned into this summer. Have you ever seen such skill at growing weeds and lettuce gone to seed?!! I confess, I have not, not even among the other 120 garden plots nearly touching ours. It's turned into a prairie restoration oasis, I think, providing refuge to several species of grasshoppers and frogs displaced by the neatly tilled rows on the other three sides.
It's not that we didn't try. It was a rainy summer that kept plants and weeds alike watered. We had a bumper lettuce crop, which unfortunately turned bitter. We had some marathon weeding sessions, but lacked a rototiller to turn things up properly.
Ultimately, we lacked both the skill and time that large-scale gardening required. Two things got in the way. Work took more time and energy than I expected. But you know what, our bank account stayed black and got even a bit blacker because of it. Growing babies also took more time and energy than I expected. Two little boys growing from 1.5 ounces to nearly 1.5 pounds apiece literally seemed to suck the life out of me some days. It wasn't that we weren't meant to garden, because our tiny backyard is doing great. The recipe for success just turned out to be doing less, not more.
I guess what I've learned this summer is that sometimes my dreams need to be cut back down to size. It's OK to branch out big (although 20x bigger all at once is a little much!), but most likely I'm not going to succeed the first time. There was plenty to keep me busy in my own family, job, backyard; plenty of people and plants for me to practice my tending on.
Big causes like orphans in Kenya, health care in America, education, even just community causes that I'd love to contribute to have flitted through my mind this summer. But if I can't farm the big garden, in spite of my best efforts, I might as well work at what must be done and what can be done - in my own backyard.
Even God, as Jesus, gave his followers a challenge that was limited to the neighborhood. Is it really possible that three meals, a body, and a neighborhood is really all there is to life? Maybe?
Jesus sent his twelve [friends] out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day." Matthew 10:5-10