Mrs. Bailey stood on the other side of the newly installed fence watching my mother. On her knees, my mother was working through the soil of her backyard, picking chunks of glass out of the ground, mostly remnants of long discarded beer bottles. The land needed to be thoroughly cleaned up before she could plant the garden she wanted.
As my mother worked Mrs. Bailey smoked her cigarette. She lived in the house next door with her teenaged children: a son, 4 unmarried daughters and a handful of grandchildren from various fathers. Her married daughter and son-in-law lived in an upstairs flat. There were always lots of people going in and out of their home. Mrs. Bailey had lived in that house for a number of years. My mother had just moved in next door. It was a year before she was to meet my father.
The house was not in great condition but my mother saw it’s potential. After renovation it would be beautiful. The long, narrow yard had been neglected for many years. It was no more than an abandoned field strewn with pieces of broken bottles, bits of trash and a large, old, scraggly tree which would need to be removed. It would take a lot of work and dedication to clean it up but when she was done, my mother knew she would be able to create a gorgeous garden.
The first step had been to replace the rickety old fence. Now, piece by piece, a square foot at a time, my mother picked up the glass, bottle caps and pull tabs. Slowly she was cleaning up the land while imagining what she would plant. Toiling, on her hands and knees, sweat rolling down her forehead, she worked as Mrs. Bailey watched.
“What are you doing?” asked Mrs. Bailey.
My mother explained to her that she was cleaning the land, that after removing the rubbish she’d plant all kinds of plants and create a beautiful garden.
Mrs. Bailey puffed on her cigarette. “I can’t have me no garden.”
“Oh? Why not?” asked my mother.
“Ain’t got no one to do it for me.” said Mrs. Bailey
My mother was stunned. She didn’t know how to respond. “Who’s doing it for me?” she thought. Working alone, my mother was doing what it took to create her garden. It would take time and a lot of work. It wasn’t an easy job. Mrs. Bailey, on the other side of the fence, with the same land and many people living in her house “couldn’t” have a garden?
Mrs. Bailey saw my mother’s example of the work necessary to fix the garden. She could imagine “having” a garden but no stretch of the mind brought her to the realization that if she did the same work she could have the same results. A garden was something that she could “have” only if someone else would do it for her, give it to her.
In contrast my mother had a mess on her hands. She had a lot of work. What she wanted was not what she had but what she could create. She was willing to do the work it took to achieve that goal. And the results were beautiful.
There are two kinds of people in the world. There are those that can’t have a garden and those that can. Those that wait for someone else to give them what they lack and those that are willing to put in the effort needed to create a better future.
The potential of each is exactly the same. It is only their thinking that keeps them apart.
What kind of person are you? What kind of person do you want to be?