A misty rain dampens the chilly morning while the sky is draped in grays the color of pussy willow catkins. The calendar says “March!” as if issuing a command, but the temperature refuses to budge above the 40’s. Though it’s officially spring, the dreariness of winter tarries in the naked tree branches, the necessary coats and gloves, the sense that warmth and sunshine will remain only a memory for weeks upon weeks to come.

And yet…I opened my email to find this announcement from my favorite local farm market: FIRST CORN PLANTED!

Surprisingly, this news sprouted hope in my soul. Someone had the confidence to ignore the overt signs of winter’s grip and act in faith that the time for action had arrived. Though the soil is half frozen, looks barren, and requires diligent work to be pried open to receive seed, the farmer knew to look ahead. Ensuring a summer harvest requires planting when conditions appear inhospitable. I long to learn from this example.

In real time, this has been a hard winter for many hearts. Beyond the typical seasonal blues, the headlines of war in the Ukraine, devastation from global warming, polarizing political dissension, and the lingering pandemic have extracted an additional toll on our capacity to believe there is reason for optimism. It takes little effort to conclude that the present darkness will grind on, that I am powerless to make a difference, and therefore I can ignore the urge to do the forward thinking work of planning, as well as planting. Such a mindset, however, snuffs out whatever light struggles to shine from within me.

The French writer Honore de Balzac said “It is easy to sit up and take notice. What is difficult is getting up and taking action.” He’s right. I can choose to set aside mental obstacles caused by a deluge of discouraging circumstances and also choose to look for ways to sow what is good in my own circle of existence. After all, I was fortunate to wake up to another day. Additionally, my country isn’t under siege and there is food on my table. I have time and resources to share. My choice for today is whether or not I will muster my energy to do so. This doesn’t have to be a major production. The notion of planting just a seed or two in the ground seems like a very do-able way to get started.

In case you wonder what this might entail, here is how that looks for me. It begins with a prayer along the lines of “Here I am. How can you use me today?”

I know I can be deliberate in sowing nibs of encouragement in other’s lives. I can also be open to seeing opportunities where I might be able to offer someone help. Whatever comes of my efforts, I will undoubtedly feel better for the attempt because it reflects an attitude that I can make a difference. If I’m willing to plant a few kernels of hope in another heart, who knows what might flourish as a result?