Spring is here and planting has begun. I went round and round in Lowe’s choosing plants to place in my containers on the patio, starting with a cherry tomato start. I love fresh tomatoes right off the vine, better than anything store-bought. And they are easy to grow. I chose bell pepper and mint, plus some flowers and two root crop seeds—carrots and radishes. And of course, I bought potting soil to rejuvenate my containers so they would support growth.

I love to garden. I love watching plants grow and produce flowers or vegetables. Or berries—I once grew strawberries and raspberries from starts. Nothing like hot fresh berries off the vine. It reminded me of growing up in the west hills of Portland where I could gorge myself on blackberries in my own backyard. Something about digging in the dirt and then seeing the fruits of your labor is so refreshing.

I also love to speak, sharing stories with others, and see their eyes light up with understanding. I want to encourage people to share their stories and not be afraid to be open with others. We all benefit from the stories are told. We need to encourage growth in others by the same techniques we use in gardening: watering with giving freedom to speak, fertilizing with feeding encouragement, weeding to help them identify and remove the obstacles that are prevent their progress. Sometimes those are people who hold them back, sometimes it is their own thoughts and messages from the past. We need to affirm them with the sunshine of our praise when they overcome their fears.

And we also need to remember our need to grow. No matter what our situation we can grow. We need to identify and remove the barriers that are keeping us back. We need to dream and stretch out our limbs to the sky. And sometimes we may need to improve the soil that we are planted in. But we also need to remember to grow wherever we are planted. Not just for ourselves but for all the others with whom we are planted.