Thoughts from a Casual Gardener

by Beth Boney Jenkins

“If thou of fortune be bereft, 
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one, and with the
dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”

― John Greenleaf Whittier

I am reminded of this little poem each year at this time, when my garden hyacinths emerge with their delightful color and fragrance. Amazing how the labor of one hour of bulb-planting years ago continues to yield such beauty and joy. 

Of course the notion of seeds-bursting-forth-into-bloom is a well-worn analogy to the work we do here each day. Even small charitable gifts produce amazingly powerful results. Mighty oaks from little acorns and all that.  Perhaps a hackneyed comparison that I don’t need to belabor further…except to reflect upon how perfectly it just fits.

You’re encouraged to hear more, right?!  Okay, here goes:

Apparently even a Casual Gardener like me can reap rewards from a few bulbs tucked into sandy soil. Likewise, at the Foundation we have endowment funds that were started in less-than-ideal conditions (a down market? a struggling rural location?). Consider the rural food pantry fund started in a mountain community in 2000 with a gift of $5,000. Now having grown over 1600% through additional gifts and investment, it annually receives nearly its original investment back in grants to provide food and medicine for low-income clients.

Of course, a more Deliberate Gardener will carefully assemble the tools and materials needed before venturing into the yard. Ditto the nonprofit organization that meticulously assembled a team of dedicated board members to raise a goodly starting sum for its endowment, then ensured that marketing and outreach continued regularly to nurture the fund. It’s not every local arts organization that can boast a robust endowment, but this one can and does.

Finally, the Master Gardener diligently researches appropriate soil and climate conditions and designs an Eden-like landscape to last the generations. Today we are amazed by the forethought of donors whose carefully planned bequests are maturing into significant charitable legacies.

Okay, enough. It’s a dreary rainy day as I write this, and I am grateful for your indulgence with my hyacinth-inspired musings.

And still, just think: tomorrow is another opportunity to plant – and to reap. And to imagine the blooms yet to come!