One year the tomatoes in our garden weren’t turning red. Someone told me to stomp on the vines because stressing the plant would cause the tomatoes to ripen. I tried it. To my surprise – this odd remedy worked. I’ve learned it works the same way with people; we need problems to help us mature. We can learn a lot from green tomatoes.
I live in a place where a killing frost often comes early in the growing season. If I don’t read the weather report, I may go to sleep with a thriving healthy garden one night and wake up to a frozen wasteland the next morning. So, I’ve learned to be watchful so I can gather in my harvest sooner rather than later if necessary. Most fruits and vegetables must ripen on the vine or tree but some can be harvested green and still mature if given enough time. That is why I prize tomatoes. When an early frost forecast forces me to pick my tomatoes while they are still green, I know they will ripen later on their own. Tomatoes are resilient and adaptable; they turn red and delicious on the garden vine or in a box in the garage. I want to be like that - able to nourish others even when things aren’t going as expected for me. I know a couple of people who understand this “green tomato” secret to happiness. Let me tell you about them.
One of my friends has faced more serious health problems than any one I know - yet she seldom complains. One day I asked her why.
“Everyone has something hard they’re dealing with,” she said. “Having problems is not unique. Why should I dwell on mine? And besides I want friends. I won’t have any friends if I’m always complaining.”
Another man I know has also learned this remedy to self pity. He realizes there is no easy time of life for any one.
“I take my troubles to God and my love to everyone else,” he said.
All of us have good days and bad days. Each of us has our share of challenges. Though we can’t control the daily weather, we can control whether we choose to uplift others or feel sorry for our self.
“Oh, to be your age again,” my elderly neighbor said when I was in my thirties.
At first her comment confused me. I’d recently been thinking about how easy her life was. I knew from personal experience that being my age was often difficult. I figured my neighbor had forgotten about all the problems I faced each day raising a large family. Old age seemed like a breeze from where I stood. Then I realized I had no idea what heartbreak or difficulties she was dealing with. I decided it was time for me to pause from self interest and truly love and care about my neighbor, to find ways to ease her loneliness, health issues or the ache of unfulfilled dreams.
Each season of life has difficulties and delights. Though there are times when a killing frost comes before we’re ready, green tomatoes remind us that we always have a choice. We can choose to ripen and mature whether we’re in a box in the garage or sunning ourselves under blue skies on the vine. We can choose to nourish others or feel sorry for our self. That is the choice that determines our ultimate destiny.