This I Believe

Matthew - Utica, New York
Entered on December 15, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in planting seeds. Martin Luther once said that “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” I don’t know if my sack of seeds is large or small, but I want to plant my seeds.

When I was in high school I used to volunteer for an after-school program for troubled kids. Each week I would drive from my house in the suburbs, into the inner city. For a couple hours I told stories, ate snacks, helped with homework, and played games with these kids. Neglected, and often abused, they were a noisy, troubled bunch that left me with a weekly headache. They had their good days when they were funny and cooperative and as open as the sky. Other days they hid underneath the folding tables refusing to even talk with anyone.

To be honest, most of the time these kids were annoying. I looked forward to being done with them.

After a couple years I had to say goodbye and head off to college. I had promised that I would stop in again, so one Friday afternoon early in my freshman year I came back. I walked in the back door, interrupting a story. There was a yell as one kid turned his head, and then together they screamed, “Matt!!!!” and swarmed me, forgetting themselves, erupting in shouts and throwing their scrawny bodies around my legs.

I realized in that moment that I would never, and could never be received, be honored or be appreciated like I was that Friday. Those bruised and needy kids made me want to plant a million apple trees.

I don’t know where those children are today – and I know that many of them have probably long since forgotten my name. But I still volunteer, and now I am the one living on what many would call the wrong side of the tracks. It is my home, because I believe in the power of planting seeds and I believe that sometimes in some mysterious way, the weakest ones can plant a seed in me.