“Bloom where you are planted.” –Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
When I first read this quote, I had no idea that it was initially written by St. Francis de Sales. In fact, it was a regular old day in the Paris metro, when I saw a sticker placed on the dreary grey walls of the underground tunnel leading from one metro station to the other. It first caught my eye because it was written in English and was printed in cheerful, bright colors. For some reason it has stuck with me all these years.
When thinking about what to write for today’s blog post, my mind kept coming back to all of those men and women who are living difficult lives and yet smiling through it. We all know them, be they a grandmother, neighbor or friend. We meet them on the street or in the market and we already know their circumstances: difficulty finding a job, family member battling a tough disease, suffering depression or just struggling daily to make ends meet because they make very little at the only job they could secure for themselves. But somehow, they manage to smile when they greet us; they ask us how we are doing and seem genuinely concerned. They are the kind of people who do what they can with what they have. Then, instead of complaining about the missing parts, they look for solid solutions and opportunities to improve their lot.
I’d like to thank them all, wherever they may be and most of all; I’d like them to know how much they mean to me. You see, perseverance is a form of encouragement. Doing the right thing is a way of encouraging others to do the same. When I see a friend or stranger who clearly lives by the principle “Bloom where you are planted”; I am inspired to try too to make the best of the conditions I have.
I don’t write this to say that it is wrong to feel discouraged. I understand completely that there are times that we feel like we are spinning our wheels and getting absolutely nowhere. I know what it’s like to work on a project only to see that it isn’t growing as fast as I know it needs to. There are times that I wonder what kind of impact one person can make on issues as broad as poverty, human rights or showing others the infinite possibilities there are for a continent as rich in resources and talent as Africa is.
Yet, it seems that each time I find my mind entertaining these thoughts which enter like a cloud blocking the sunlight; that little light pierces through in the form of a person who is doing it: blooming where they are planted. And by means of their tenacity, they inspire me to do the same. They also remind me that a field of flowers is made up of single blooms which happen to be in the same location.
So, as we work to help others, let us also remember to help each other along the way. I know how much it has helped me to know good people like Geoff, Nigel, Freweini, Neritia and the many others who inspire me to do what I can do and understand that it might not be enough to “change the world”; but that it does have some impact, even if just to be one of the many flowers which make up a field that is in full bloom.