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Tomato Guy

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 NASB

A few weeks back, Cindy asked for volunteers to help at Jubilee Reach.  They needed to pot a lot of tomato plants to give away.  “Are you interested?” Carol asked.  “No,” I said.  Potting tomatoes is not at the top of my triangle.  I do not have a green thumb.  Not in my comfort zone.  Yes, I get it – Cindy thought my dozen words of Spanish might be helpful.

Well, guilt kicked in and I reluctantly agreed to help for two days only: Tuesday and Wednesday.

When I arrived Tuesday noon, Cindy, Catherine and Carol were already working.  I thought maybe we would be potting a few dozen plants, but I saw literally hundreds of small tomato plants waiting to be potted.   There was a pickup truck filled with dirt, hundreds of plastic pots and even more tomato plants.  What did I get myself into?  But Cindy, Catherine and Carol were patient with me, showing me how take the new plants, break the roots apart, set them in the base of the pot, and add the dirt.

Soon, the Jubilee Reach clients started arriving.  About 60% of participants speak Spanish as their first language.  My job phased into a carnival barker.  “Tenemos tomates!”  (We have tomatoes.)  Most would take a look.  I pointed out the different kinds of tomato plants and let them pick the one they wanted.  If anyone hesitated, I would say, “Son bueno para el pico de gallo.”  (It is good for making pico de gallo.)  I don’t know why, but they would always laugh.  AND, they would always take a plant.

The afternoon passed quickly.  People came over.  We’d talk and laugh.  They would look at me funny as I tried to speak Spanish.  I just don’t look like I speak Spanish.  It throws them off.  I helped with their tomato plants and they were very appreciative.

I was filled with joy being part of this very special interchange.  Cindy, Carol and Catherine felt the same.  I went home that day with dirty hands and a full heart.  Thinking back, I remembered Jesus’ words in Mark 6:34 where he had compassion on the crowd “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

The next day, my last day, I went to Jubilee Reach with confidence.  I knew the routine and felt secure in my role as the tomato guy.  Catherine, who grew all the tomato starts that we were potting, brought even more plants to be potted!  Bless her heart!  Just when I thought we were almost done.  But onward and upward, and we potted more plants.   The time flew by.  Again, people took away tomato plants and were really appreciative.  Again, I left for home with dirty hands and a full heart.  AND, I said I would come back the next day!

Yes.  I know.  I had only committed to two days.  What was I thinking?  It was kind of like the Grinch That Stole Christmas.  At the end, his “small heart grew three sizes that day.”  Just so my heart grew as it was filled by the generosity and gratefulness that I observed that day.

The third day, Carol and I gave away almost all the pots and plants.  We didn’t count but estimated that we potted and gave away around 800 tomato plants.  I was filled with satisfaction at being able to participate in something special.  I’m not talking about tomato plants.  I mean the satisfaction of working with a team willing to give selflessly.  The satisfaction of doing something for others who had no way to repay.

Maybe the next time I’m asked to do something, and my knee-jerk answer is coming up “No”, I’ll pause and think about it a while.  Maybe I’ll remember those three days at Jubilee Reach: potting tomatoes, dirty hands and a full heart.

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