Outside in my garden this weekend, I found something that surprised me. When I pulled a cloth off the raised bed for vegetables I found lettuce from last fall that had survived and started to grow again. Apparently it persevered and didn’t freeze in the snow and frigid nights. Later I picked up a clay pot to find a tulip growing through the drainage hole. Such is the force of life.
I do know this about plants but I forget and somehow these miracles always take me by surprise. They point to a spiritual truth I think we all need today. The spirit of life is stronger than we reckon or remember.
Frank Bruni, a professor at Duke and columnist for the New York Times, woke up one day, to discover he could not see in one eye. During the night apparently, a stroke had damaged his optic nerve but Bruni says, “Losing my eyesight helped me see more clearly.” (NYT Feb. 20, 2022) What the experience has taught him is that “To feel sorry for yourself is to ignore than everyone is vulnerable to intense pain and that almost everyone has worked or is working through some version of it.” But somehow God put something resilient in our DNA.
Maybe this is one reason we are riveted by the stories coming from Ukraine because the injustice is so clear and the pain so transparent and their canny courage so inspiring. It puts the human struggle, somehow, on public display. Whatever diabolical plans or policies Putin throws at his neighbors, these people are not bending to the will of the tyrannical bully next door. The longer they fight, the less likely an easy Russian victory becomes, because spring is not this bully’s friend. As the ground thaws these Russian tanks will settle into mud, rendered useless in this season of sunshine. Spring is the on the side of Ukraine, and with each passing day even with obstacles in their way, like my tulips, the prospects of the Ukrainian people get better.
Maybe that’s also why so many Americans want to welcome the Ukrainian immigrants to our shores. We want to help them, and in the process, remind ourselves that the human spirit can be strong even indomitable, sometimes. We want to remember that bullies are never as strong as they look, and that people with a noble cause are stronger than we expect. As we each struggle silently with our own painful stories, our accidents or unexpected diagnoses, our personal betrayals or old injustices, we want to welcome these strangers who are standing up to the world’s biggest bully. We need them to remind us that even in the harshest winters of life we are all just holding it together until spring and the glimpse of some more sun.