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Friday, May 27, 2016

These hands work the soil of his moral garden

When I was a young boy I remember working in my grandfather's garden. We live in an urban tenement building with out a yard or garden. My garden was a concrete garden. His was a real garden of rich deep soil. He was a man of peace who went to that war to end all wars in 1916. He wept walking those Green Fields of France. He knelt and prayed there at the white cross of his best friend who he left behind there. He prayed and thanked God for surviving before returning to his wife and child back in America. He made his living with his hands by day, read by night, and prayed every single day of his life. He was a good man who somehow managed to buy a big house with a garden.
At Grandad's house we had grass, tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, pumpkins, herbs and flowers. He loved working in his garden.
My grandfather left school at the age of 8, but he never left learning. He was the most read man I have ever met. His library was bigger than anyone's personal library I have ever met. Books, tools, and gardening was his heaven.
His garden was:
His church,
His university,
His concert hall,
His dance floor,
His sanuaury,
His loving work,
Whenever we visited him in summer it was where he spent his days.
He would invite me every time to come play in his garden of love.
I might say it's hot out here. He would say put on your baseball gap and get down here and help me weed my garden. Before long I forget the heat as he sang those old Woody Guthrie Folk songs.
" Oh, if you ain't got the do re mi, folks, you ain't got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi.
You want to buy you a home or a farm, that can't deal nobody harm,
Don't swap your old cow for a car, you better stay right where you are,
Better take this little tip from me."
I loved singing, digging, weeding, and dreaming my life away with him in that little garden. He would always grab my hands and put a bunch of soul in them. He would smile and say some fools call this dirt, but this is the Lord's soil. Feel it's richness and hold it's promise. Gold can't feed you, but soil will. He would say this is the work. The good work, the stuff that pleases the Lord. Learn to love the good work little Jess.
He was my teacher, my best friend, the father who I never had. He was my garden. As we worked that garden he would talk about Plato, Socrates, act out whole Shakespeare plays, reenact every story the bible held, he always ended talking about Dr. Martin Luther King. He loved Martin dearly. He would drive 400 miles to see Dr. King in August 63, and bring his garden partner little Jess along for the ride. The ride was more than a ride, and that March on Washington was more than a march. It was something bigger than the two of us. That ride was his way ensuring that the grandson named after him was planted in good moral soil. 
I am already working our garden, love doing the work and love the soil. I follow his routine faithfully, work by day, read by night, and pray everyday. I am his boy, his namesake, his soil, and together our garden still grows strong.
On July 8th Carolyn my wife and gardening partner will drive 400 miles to the Lincoln Memorial in DC for the Peoples March for Public Education and Social Justice. I'll stand in the same place I stood with him 53 years ago. I plan on looking up and saying thank you Grandad for planting me in good soil. Say hello to Martin for me. Tell Dr. King that I heard the dream, and work it every day. Say hello to Grandma and Mom for me. Tell them their boy loves the soil, loves the garden, loves prayer, and loves being a good husband, a good father, a good teacher, and loves working that soil in the garden of justice.
Little Jess

If you want to listen to the song I listened to this morning as I watered the garden... It's Woody Guthrie "I ain't got no home";postID=6457705891236663242

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