“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Warren Buffet is quoted as saying those words, and no doubt his intent was to make a point about business investments. But really, those words can speak to any investment.
One thing I have learned over the years is that urban ministry is much more about investing than anything else…more about planting than harvesting. It’s about walking the streets to find that one available piece of fertile dirt, perhaps hidden behind a graffiti covered wall or some barbed wire. It’s about digging deep in my pocket for that seed, then casting it, maybe not even believing myself that it will take root.
The planting is hot and exhausting, it’s relentless and it feels like it will never end, like fruit will never be born. There is watering, and there is tending. There is more planting. more watering, and then more tending. No one knows if a tree can even grow in this environment.
But then, sometimes, it does.
Roots push down into the earth, seeking the cool soil, winding into the nourishing depths. A tender shoot stretches up to the sun with arms raised, and tiny flecks of green appear.
Tragically, sometimes those tiny, hopeful growths are mowed down in the chaos and in the dark. Then we plant again, and cultivate, and tend, and then sometimes those tiny lives come rising back up through the concrete and through the dirt.
And so the planting must not stop. Because I don’t know which seed will grow a root, and which plant will survive the storm. Because I don’t have the power to give life after all, but I’m simply called to the tasks of sowing, of investing, of working the ground.
Miraculously, a community of planters surrounds me, rolls up sleeves, kneels into the earth. This community has come with the goal to shade those fledgling plants, to water just a bit more, to toil long into the night.
Perhaps you are planting with us. Perhaps you have thrown a seed into the field of San Salvador through a whispered prayer, a donation of food, a financial contribution, or a week of service. This planting belongs to you too, it is not ours alone to tend.
The work doesn’t end and the truth is that we may never actually see the end. We may just plant and toil and bend our backs into the earth. We may not feel the shade of a tree stretch across the cracked pavement. But we keep working, and we keep cultivating the dream that in the heat of a far off afternoon, someone else will sit in the shadow of those glorious leaves.
And so today we plant again because we believe that one day these streets will be shaded, these roots will grow deep, and these mighty trees will rise up to meet the sun.