As I sat on the church lawn digging up dandelions to transplant in my garden, my thoughts went back to the day I first met Raya here at the church. Stella and I were chatting during the social break between services when Raya entered the room.
Stella had rolled her eyes while saying, “Here she comes again, self-promoting her own agenda.”
“What do you mean?”, I asked.
“Raya is always doing some wild project, demanding an unfair share of resources and church members’ time to promote her own agenda. It’s usually for things most of us aren’t interested in anyway. She just doesn’t fit in with who we are and what we are all about. She’s not like us.”
I turned to observe for myself. Stella bid her farewell as she turned to head out in a different direction. “Don’t waste your time getting entangled in her escapades.”, she warned.
Keeping my seat, I watched Raya as she “worked” the crowd. True, there was an awkwardness and unrefinement about her. One could pick up on the private agenda she was working. She needed help working with the young kids on a garden project she was trying to incorporate into the children’s program. She flitted around the room darting quickly in and out of conversations, flowing through the room like a fish swimming upstream. I had to chuckle a little inside as I watched.
Then I noticed something peculiar. True, she was on a mission, but I saw there was more to her than meeting a so-called ‘greedy little agenda’. Between short chats to handle business, she made it a point to walk across the room when she noticed someone who was alone. Sometimes she knew them, other times not. Either way, each person was approached with the same loving smile and greeted with some short phrase. Just a little something letting them know someone in the room did notice and was glad to see them.
Still sitting alone after Stella’s departure, Raya approached me with a friendly handshake followed by, “How are you today? I just love the blue colors on your shirt!”
After thanking her for the complement, I asked if she had found anyone to help with the kids. I told her I would love to help if she was still looking.
“Why not?”, I thought to myself. After all, I do enjoy gardening. However, it was more than gardening. After my covert observations, I wanted to know more about Raya.
In the weeks that followed, I could be found every Wednesday at the church helping Raya corral the little ones as they worked in the worm bin and planted seeds and young plants in the small garden of containers she had created out back. I looked forward each week to working with the kids and talking to Raya. She had an overflowing passion and dedication to teaching others about nutrition and simple ways to grow food in hopes of teaching others how to reduce any food insecurities in their home, or that of a friend. The kids tried, and liked, the vegetables they grew. The extra produce was donated to the church food pantry.
I began to think about our church programs and mission. Our church is known in the community for our food pantry and all the people it serves. When I looked around at those who attend our midweek children’s program, I noticed most of those attending were not from our congregation. In fact, many were known to be from low income households. Homes where food insecurities might be a real issue.
Stella was wrong. Her agenda was not greedy in nature. Raya knew she was loved by the Lord and was obeying His call to love others, even those we may see as unlovable. Sometimes we quickly judge people as weeds that don’t fit in. With closer observations, or a little nurturing and pruning, those weeds are recognized as a life of beauty and faith before God.
Thanks to Raya, I now know the nutritional and health benefits in the beautiful dandelion weeds. In fact, many plants we judge as weeds are nutrient-packed foods given to us by God. They grow during the season when we need the nutrients they offer the most. So before pulling up and tossing out a weed as worthless, take a moment to understand its beauty and discover its value. For that “weed” was created by God for a purpose.