Some of the many happy memories I have of growing up on our family farm revolve around our very large and productive vegetable garden. This was a garden that produced food we ate all summer and, through the process of canning and freezing, during the winter months, as well. While as a kid I naturally complained a bit about the work involved, I secretly was very drawn into the whole experience of digging in the rich black soil, planting the seeds, watching for the plants to pop through and grow, keeping the rows clean of weeds, and finally enjoying all the wonderful food that resulted from the mixture of human effort and the mysteries of nature doing its part.
In recent years I’ve made a point of going back to North Dakota each spring to help plant our garden. There is an even deeper meaning for me now, as I have greater appreciation for how directly gardening and farming open the door for human beings to begin to understand that much of life is about cooperating in something we can’t fully comprehend and distinguishing between those things we can control and those we can’t. I marvel at how tiny seeds, when left in the dirt, by some combination of the nutrients in the soil, the sunshine, the rain, and a little human nudging, grow into all the different kinds of food that provide exactly the right nutrients the human body needs to flourish. Depending on the combination of these elements in a given year, different parts of the garden will do much better than others and even my Mom, who is well beyond an amateur gardener, does not always know why.
Not long ago I ran into a beautiful nun who I hadn’t seen in several years. In the process of catching up, she asked about my work and upon learning that I was still at the Children’s Scholarship Fund, she said with a smile that it seems “you have found your cabbage patch.” When I looked at her a little quizzically, she explained how each of us is given something to attend to in this life—our cabbage patch—and if we faithfully do our part, there will be fruit (or vegetables!) and a beautiful mosaic will take shape. We may not be able to see the full picture now, but we can trust it is taking form. Her analogy drew me right back to my garden in North Dakota and helped me see our work at CSF in a slightly different light.
Twenty years ago, CSF started as a four-year project to help 40,000 kids while testing the waters to see what kind of demand existed for educational options among low-income parents. Through a combination of factors, many not in our control, CSF has been a vehicle that empowered some 166,000 children (and counting!) – surpassing the original goal many times over, and proving families really do want to be in charge of their children’s education. And in the process, our “cabbage patch” has also helped create the conditions so parents can foster their own children’s educational growth.
At this time of year, when we take a moment to reflect and give thanks, I am deeply grateful for the privilege of being part of those tending to CSF and being a way for our generous donors to help families give their children the chance to flourish. I know all of us – including the principals, teachers, and families of our Scholars – are part of something bigger than what we can see or fully know the results of. And I do know we are doing something very beautiful together. Thank you.
With all best wishes,
Darla M. Romfo