Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, June 23, 2006

Planting Jelly Beans

by Kerry Blair

One Sunday when my daughter was two or three, a well-meaning nursery leader gave her a paper cup of dirt, a small, shriveled bean—and delusions of grandeur. Hilary stuck the pitiful little thing in the soil, watered it faithfully, and was rewarded in time with a sickly green beanstalk that couldn’t have supported a climb by an aphid, let alone a giant killer. Nevertheless, it was her first mortal participation in the creation process and she was captivated.

Since that time my little sower has strewn pumpkin seeds and popcorn, melon seeds and M&Ms, potatoes and potato bugs with varying levels of success. She's planted with no regard to season, soil, or the anticipated crop, and she's been equally delighted with radishes and roses. Even when nothing comes up she's happy because, for her, the satisfaction is in the sowing.

I want to be like that, but I tend to be crop-oriented instead. I was once called as Young Women president in a ward where one of the Laurels wanted nothing to do with the Church. I considered that girl’s cultivation my personal responsibility. On the way over to her house to introduce myself I daydreamed of the New Era article she’d write about me. You know the story: Wonderful, Dedicated Leader Touched My Heart and Changed My Life; Generations Rise Up to Call Her Blessed.

The only problem was that the girl didn’t want to change her life. I never touched her heart—or even her stomach since she refused every treat I took her. Once, her father got up off the couch long enough to call me a couple of things, but blessed wasn’t one of them. Although I’d sown my seeds of love and fellowship as faithfully as I could, I reaped failure and discouragement. It was like my daughter planting jelly beans under a rock in the blistering Arizona sun and expecting to grow a bright, beautiful jelly beanstalk that reached up into the heavens.

But, you know, Hil isn’t the only one who does it. Other dauntlessly optimistic people plant jelly beans every single day. I see it often and admire their efforts with all my heart.

Yesterday I drove into a smallish community here in central Arizona. On the way I listened to reports from Iraq and felt angry, heartbroken, and powerless to do anything but feel angry, heartbroken, and powerless. Downtown, crossing the courthouse plaza, I passed a memorial to men who fought in WW II. I’ve passed that statue dozens of times without giving it a second glance, but yesterday several people had gathered around it and more than one of them was crying. Curious, I walked over to look. Someone had placed at the bronze soldiers’ feet two long-stemmed red roses wrapped in a black POW flag—a small, spontaneous tribute to two young servicemen (neither one from Arizona) who’d been brutally murdered for defending their country half a world away.

I looked at the roses and thought about Hilary and her jelly beans. When I passed by again an hour later another group had paused before the newly-significant memorial. I retrieved my digital camera from the car and took a picture which I posted on a Military Mom website. Dozens of women have since shared how comforted and blessed they felt because of an anonymous person who cared enough about two young strangers—and what they represent—to demonstrate it. That one simple, spontaneous gesture—like a single seed—has borne more sweet fruit than its sower ever intended or imagined.

My new resolve is to be less crop-oriented myself. Starting today I will drop a jelly bean or two whenever and wherever I can. It’s likely that most of my “magic beans” will fall by the wayside to be trodden underfoot, unobserved and unappreciated. But maybe—just maybe—a jelly beanstalk will one day sprout up and amaze everybody.

Who knows where it might lead.


At 6/23/2006 12:47 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Kerry, if anyone can grow a jelly beanstalk, it's you. =)In my opinion, you've been dropping brightly colored jelly beans into many lives for a very long time---and you have always made a difference.

Thank you for sharing yet another thought-provoking blog. =)

At 6/23/2006 4:00 PM, Blogger kirby&ko said...

Your books are so funny I love them. Why aren't your blogs?

At 6/23/2006 4:22 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Um...good question. Choose the answer you like best:

1) I can only be funny four days a week so I take long weekends.

2) I figure Rob Wells doesn't need the competition.

3) I get a frog in my throat every time I try to blog.

ANYWAY, sorry to disappoint you. Don't give up on me yet! I'll try to come up with some knock knock jokes (or something) for next week.

At 6/23/2006 6:34 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Ah, but Kerry, even when you're funny, you touch my heart. A long time ago I loved cherries and I planted seeds all over the farm and each morning I checked to see if I'd grown any cherrys. One morning I walked out into the orchard (apple) to find a tree covered with cherrys. My brothers believed so much faith should be rewarded. Someday your big Brother will reward your faith and Hil's. I wouldn't be surprised to see jelly bean trees pop up everywhere you've ever been.

At 6/24/2006 7:02 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


I loved this post. You should send it into the Ensign.

At 6/25/2006 7:27 PM, Anonymous krystina dalton said...

Thanks for that post, Kerry, it was really well written. You have such a way with words! I love how your posts are always food for thought. You are an inspiration!


At 6/25/2006 10:23 PM, Blogger annegb said...

I'm blown away, Kerry. What heart.

I ache for the families of those two boys, as well. Their poor mothers.

I completely agree with Jeffrey. This needs to be read by a lot of people. Send it in.

At 6/25/2006 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kerry, I think your posts are beautifully written. You really should consider sending this in to be published.

At 6/30/2006 9:42 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I thought this was amazing, Kerry, and I am green with envy that I can't write something this well.

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