A Pumpkin of Peace
Catholic Charities has an apartment-style building in St. Paul to help financially challenged individuals begin to live on their own. As our first outreach day for the school of ministry, we offered to spend our morning working on a landscaping project for them.
Unlike most other landscaping projects I have worked on, this one had a special purpose beyond a smart-looking street-side view. We were going to bless the land with peace. Our purpose was to pray peace over the people who lived there and over everyone who would walk by.
When you have a purpose of imparting a gift through your work, the whole project begins to take on another sort of meaning. Each time a weed comes out of the ground, it becomes a symbol of taking away what is bad. Wherever a rake pulls the dirt smooth, it is making way for beauty to grow in a place of suffering. Our work of restoring the ground symbolized the work that we prayed God would do restoring the lives of the people who lived there. Most of all, though, our service was a sacrifice of ourselves to bring peace to others.
Somehow, it worked.
In the process of pulling out the old growth, we inadvertently pulled up a squash plant that belonged to the next-door neighbor. Because of the context of peace that we worked in (or so I would like to think), the potential for conflict became a potential for relationship. When I found out about the problem, I took the time to listen to his story, sympathize with his sadness, and look forward to the opportunity of restoration.
In response, he crossed the barrier between yards to give our group a present. He said it was to show that he wasn’t angry and that he appreciated our sympathy. The gift was a pumpkin – one of those little yellow ones that people use for decoration sometimes in the fall.
Somehow, by pursuing a context of peace and looking for ways to restore the relationship, a broken squash plant led to a conversation about God and a pumpkin of peace.