Slideshow image

Legend has it that in the early 1800’s a gentleman and Christian missionary named John Chapman traveled the highways and byways of the Northeast and Midwest planting apple seeds along the paths he traveled. So many apple trees, orchards and nurseries spread from his work, Mr. Chapman became known to many in storied tales as “Johnny Appleseed.” Although versions of the story vary, the fact is that some of the seeds sown by Mr. Chapman still bear fruit today in a number of towns and villages along his path.

In the Bible, Jesus shared a parable about sowing seeds. The lesson he sought to share was that depending on the environment and care, we could, through our efforts, produce the fruit of life a hundredfold. The key, according to Jesus, was to sow our seeds in fertile soil for many may be lost in the hard rocks and thorns by the side of the road. As you most likely know, Jesus was referring to sowing the seeds of love and kindness in a world that is sometimes hard and resistant.

So what is the intersection of the works of “Johnny Appleseed” and the teachings of Jesus and what relevance and guidance can we glean from these shared lessons? Our lives present us with daily opportunities to sow seeds of a variety of things that can take hold in fertile soil and bear fruits of an amazing nature.  The seeds that I refer to are the thoughts and actions that when planted in the minds and hearts of others, have the potential to grow into deeds and words that might possibly alter the course of lives and even history.

The mastery in this craft is in recognizing and procuring good and productive seeds and introducing them into the fertile minds and hearts of those who possess the love and goodness to tend the crop. It is this careful cultivation that not only insures the current bounty, but also those in future generations to come. It is our personal work in sowing our personal seeds that will lead to our legacy. The best definition for the term legacy I found in a line from the famous Broadway production, Hamilton. “Legacy…What is Legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see”. Life is our most fertile garden. We are nourished by our own harvest and influenced in untold ways by the crops and legacy of others.

Life leaves us no choice in this seed sowing process. We all plant seeds whether consciously or in an unconscious manner. Someone is always watching and listening to what we say…how we act…how we cope…how we deal with life.

It is important that we are aware of this natural inclination and carefully select the seeds we sow and the crop we wish to grow. There are also those who seek to sow the seeds of hate, fear, and destruction as well. The epic struggle to cultivate love, kindness, and respect, requires a large and dedicated contingency of us who dream of such a world today and as part of our legacy.

I learned many years ago that, try as I might, I cannot force feed friends, family and humanity any thought or idea that their heart and soul aren’t fertile ground to receive. Many of my well-intentioned efforts to sow fruitful seeds have fallen by the side of the road or onto hard hearts and rocky unfertile souls. The key lies in numbers. It is by sowing as many seeds of infinite possibility wherever we go that we can have hope that the best and strongest will germinate in time, take root and grow. The irony in life is that we never know when, how or with whom this process will bear fruit.

In my “Johnny Appleseed” efforts, I work to scatter my thoughts and examples of goodness and kindness to the world that I walk through each day. I enter into productive discourse and live each day so that my actions create an example of what the fruits of my labor might look like when ripe and ready to feed the world. Much like the soil that is not prepared yet to receive and nurture the seed, the heart, mind and soul, must reach a state of preparedness. The seeds we plant today may lay dormant for years until some life changing event enriches the environment and causes a sudden germination where previous conditions made it unlikely or even impossible.

We must sow our own seeds with the expectation of nothing in return and with the patience to see what grows and what might remain in a perpetual state of dormancy. Our hearts and minds remain more productive when not under a state of stress and pressure. Our seeds will only grow when we trust the universal laws and divine order to release and let go. The Bible reveals in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. Our job is to sow the seeds, not to determine when the season and harvest are ready.

The seeds that we plant today could one day be a towering redwood tree of life in years to come. We don’t always know where the seeds we sow land or how they will grow and mature, even when in a fertile and loving mind. Our seeds can sow influence, initiative and hope in untold ways and lives. It is the seeds that we choose to nurture that will grow and bear fruit and witness to that unseen future garden.

We can never change others, nor should it be our mission to do so. The sowing of our thoughts and the mental impressions created by our deeds is left to the recipient to choose what they should do and how they should tend their own crop. Love is the seed of all hope and we should walk each day in a conscious intent to spread those seeds. We are a product of the seeds that we have nurtured in our own lives.

Success in life can be measured in a myriad of ways. I tend to embrace the words of motivational speaker and author, John C. Maxwell, “Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.”   

Fred Clausen