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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Scott

Tagetes Patula: The Vibrant Marvel of Nature

"You must be Jack," she said, reaching out her hand to greet him in the lobby.

He replied, "Yes, ma'am, that's me," as he firmly shook her hand.

"Please, call me Lisa." she laughed, "Ma'am makes me sound much older than I am." gesturing to Jack to follow her down the hallway to the gardening house.

As the Executive Director of Tagetes Patula, a non-profit organization she founded at 26, Lisa has gained many accolades for her uncanny ability to help young teens over the last 36 years of business.

Many wonder how she does it. They want to know her secrets. How does every child in her program with behavior problems succeed in such a short period?

It always lifts her spirits to hear comments about the impact of her program, and she always responds with a smile, quoting Ken Druse:

"When gardeners garden, it is not just plants that grow, but gardeners themselves."

"Jack, can you hand me that over there?" she asks, pointing to the shelf with her gardener trays.

Jack asked curiously, "Are you talking about these things that look like my momma's ice cube trays?"

Laughing loudly, she says, "Yes, chile, bring me your momma's ice cube trays."

As Jack returns to the wooden bench in the garden house, she hands him some items.

"Ok, I want you to place this into each tray in the container." She instructs, handing Jack a bag of moist garden soil.

"Is this enough in each?" He asks as he finishes pouring.

She yells, "That's perfect. Great job!" and gives Jack a high five, then says, "Now scatter these seeds over the soil you just added to each tray."

As Jack shouts excitedly, "Done! That's easy money", he continues to joke. "Ms. Lisa, I'm doing so well you might have to pay me to be your assistant gardener."

Their conversations showed Lisa that Jack was beginning to open up. It hasn't even been an hour since he started the program, and already he has grown.

"Alright, my assistant gardener, I need you to gently press the seeds into the soil and water each slowly until I say stop," she says.

Jack asks while still pouring, "Is this good enough?"

In a southern accent, she replies, "Chile, have I told you to stop yet?" as they laugh.

When the day ended, Lisa gave Jack a checklist that included three questions he must complete over the next seven days to pass the program. Those questions were:

  1. Have you watered the seeds you planted?

  2. What did you observe about the seed's growth process?

  3. How have you improved as a gardener?

The look on Jack's face shows that he thought passing was too easy. Saying to himself, "There must be some catch here, right?"

Jack completed all the checklist items as the week passed, but he still had one question left unanswered, prompting a more serious discussion.

"Ms. Lisa, can I ask a question?" he asked.

"Of course!" she replied. "What's on your mind?"

"When I asked you about the plants that didn't sprout, and I wanted to throw them away in the middle of the week, you told me not to. Why is that?" As he paused to wait for Ms. Lisa to respond.

Lisa smiles at Jack and says, "You're a gardener. That's not what gardeners do."

"But, but," Jack slightly stuttered in confusion, but continued, "But they seemed like a waste of time, and we should have focused on the plants that were growing instead,"

She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, "I couldn't let you do that to yourself."

She noticed Jack's eyebrows raised in astonishment. It was clear to her that he understood what she meant.

"You see Jack—" As she begins to wave her index finger slightly in front of her face, "gardeners, know there is potential for life in every seed. Some seeds grow more rapidly than others because of many factors. However—the gardener is responsible for cultivating an environment in which life emerges from a seed, allowing it to flourish and leave behind the shell that once contained it." then she stopped and pointed towards the sign above her door, which read:

"When gardeners garden, it is not just plants that grow, but gardeners themselves."

Then turns back to Jack, looking at him passionately, like a mother to a son, and says, "Jack, you may not have come here as a gardener, but you will leave as one."

🔑 A part of you has to die for something else to live. You already are who you want to be—now, you have to be. So make the change to be the change.


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