‘Pick though the old to welcome the new’ this Lent

It’s been an unseasonably warm winter in St. Louis. 

As I sat outside in a short-sleeved shirt in February, two weeks after some ice and sleet, I couldn’t help but think how crazy the weather has been.
The tulips and daffodils in my garden appear confused as well: some green shoots have been popping up, while others prefer to stay below ground. And so began spring clean-up for the garden.
Scraping up the leaves from neighboring trees, clearing aside dead annuals that had been late bloomers in the summer, moving aside mulch and pruning down roses. That was what the weekend looked like for us. Hard work, but gratifying.

As I sat beside one of the black-eyed Susans in my yard, picking around the new leafy growth and pulling out the dead leaves from last year, I remembered our excitement and pride as we watched everything we had planted thrive and come to life. Picking through the old to welcome the new: the perfect metaphor for life.

One of my student groups has decided that it will be advocating for the victims of domestic violence. As they’ve been analyzing research and visiting their service site, they mentioned their surprise at the cycle of abuse. Why would a child who had grown up in an abusive environment grow up and continue the cycle?

That question became their broad research question, and they’ll work to narrow it down throughout the semester.

In our discussion, one of the members thought carefully before saying that the same cycle is something that we all participate in.

At first, given the glares and skepticism from the group, I thought I’d be mediating a fight. Instead, he talked about his hometown.

In smaller towns, and sometimes even in bigger cities, there’s a reluctance to leave, to explore the world outside, to make new friends.

Instead, he mentioned the surprise expressed by members in his community and his high school when he declared that he would be attending college out of state.

We all participate in environmental cycles.

I think of my own experiences. Looking at the lives of friends from grammar school, it surprised me to see just how accurate my student was: The majority are developing their own wonderful lives in, if not the same city they grew up in due to the displacement of Hurricane Katrina, generally near family and friends.

My life is the outlier: moving away from home, traveling to God-knows-where if I land a job as a college professor.

It was a different outlook on the group’s situation that allowed them to connect the location and community to the situation. But it also prompted my own reflections. As we grow up, it’s natural to move through life and lose track of the people you’ve grown up with.

I count myself as an introvert, so I never had large groups of friends. And yet, I don’t necessarily keep up with the few I had in grammar school and high school – except on Facebook.

College was the turning point. Picking through the dead leaves to make room for new growth. That metaphor seems apt: the friends that I do contact frequently are those who, in some ways, made an impact on my life and development as a person.

Hard work, but gratifying. In our upcoming Lenten reflections, perhaps this theme might speak to the lives we lead and the cycles we perpetuate or break.

Are we combing through the spent parts of our lives – relationships, personal habits and choices, etc. – to make room for new growth?

Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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