Planting Seeds of Goodness

Gomer Pyle used to get a big grin on his face, tilt his head, and joyfully utter, “surprise, surprise, surprise!” when something delightful and unexpected would occur.  If he had walked into the Solanus Center’s dining room last week, he would most likely be vocalizing his happy chant.

At our annual International Day of Prayer for Peace service held on Thursday, Sept 21, we offered prayers for peace, listened to inspirational speakers reflect on the power of peace, and were caught up in the children of St. Charles Praise Dance troupe dancing to the powerful singing of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen choir.  Each year as part of the prayer service we invite people to partake in a ritual to confirm their commitment to make peace happen in concrete ways.  This year our ritual was to plant seeds.  There were four large planters with soil and bowls with hundreds of seeds.  Each person came forward, took a bean seed, placed it in the planter and privately made a commitment. 

After the prayer service the plan was to put additional soil over the seeds, water them, and take the planters to various ministry sites of the Capuchins.  Somehow the follow through did not happen.  No soil was added.  No water was added.  No planter was relocated at other ministry sites.  But, something totally unexpected occurred.

Less than a week after the prayer service, the seeds were sprouting.  Multitudes of green leaves and stems pushed upwards.  We were astonished with the amount of growth especially since the conditions were not hospitable for such fertility.

Astonishment and surprises often call for further reflection.  As we thought about it, the growth from the seeds indicated to us the importance of sowing seeds of goodness and peace.  We saw dramatically how the seeds sown in the pots produced life even though the typical elements of water and planting beneath the soil were not at play.  The sowing of the seeds was THE most important part.

For us our take away was that we should always have the courage to plant seeds of goodness and peace in our little part of the world, in our relationships, in our homes and work environment.  Seeds of kindness and thoughtfulness, as well as, insight might not register a result in the moment, but who really knows the powerful growth that might take place at a later time because of that seed of goodness.

In Fr. Solanus’ life one life-giving seed that ended up bearing surprising goodness occurred well before Fr. Solanus became a priest.  In one of his first jobs he worked as a prison guard in Stillwater MN.  He was assigned to guard a notorious cold blooded killer, a member of Jesse James’ gang, Cole Younger.  It is said that Barney (Fr. Solanus) showed genuine kindness to Mr Younger and they shared a love of baseball.  When it came time for Barney to transfer to another job, Mr Younger made a trunk in the prison’s woodshop and gave it to Barney as a gift of friendship.  Barney used that trunk to transport his few personal items when he came to the capuchins in 1896.

As a follow up to their rare friendship, it is noted that Cole Younger was the only member of Jesse James’ gang to be released from prison and soon after his release Cole Younger set up an association for young boys to learn positive skills so as not to end up in gangs and ultimately in jail.  Here the seed of kindness that Barney sowed in Cole Younger came back many fold.

Our surprise seeds offer us a visual to encourage our seed sowing in our daily life.  Kindness, goodness, and thoughtfulness towards others can do so much more than we may ever see ourselves.  The point is not that we see the results; rather, it is that we plant to the seeds.

respectfully submitted by

Sally McCuen

Hospitality Coordinator at the Solanus Casey Center