Friday, April 25, 2008

The Plant Gene

Our plant, the subject of Nicole's latest blog

I have tons to write about my time in Belarus (which was an incredible experience) but I first wanted to post what Nicole wrote for the HUC blog, which she contributes to on a monthly basis. Nicole is our neighbor and good friend, and she is one of my favorite people at HUC. She's an amazing person and writer, and Steph and I were honored to be mentioned in her latest blog.

As nice as her blog is, I have to say that I can't take any of the credit for keeping this plant alive--it's all Steph, as she is the one who remembers to water it daily (or almost daily) and cares enough to keep our plant growing somewhat strong. She's the real 'mommy' of our plant, and she does her best to take good care of it despite the fact that it doesn't seem to want to take care of itself.

My classmates, Tracy and Steph, who live one flight up from me, have this big plant in their living room. They didn't buy the big plant–it was just in their apartment when they moved in. It sits on the very top of a bookshelf that might actually tip over if the big plant were to grow much bigger. But there's little fear of that, for the big plant has looked like it's been dying ever since we got here last summer. Some of its big leaves are dried up, others hang limp. It's not terribly attractive.
But next to the big plant sits a beautiful thing: A little plastic water bottle. Tracy and Steph use this little bottle to keep the big plant hydrated as best they can. This, despite the fact that the big plant never really shows its appreciation by sprouting new growth or perking itself up–it just kind of hangs there and continues looking...well...big. What's more, even though Tracy and Steph acknowledge that the big plant doesn't exactly add to the aesthetics of the place and may not actually live to meet the next tenant, whenever they go out of town, they ask me to water it. So I do. Because they do.

I often wonder if I am equipped with whatever gene Tracy and Steph inherited that makes them so naturally inclined to keep nourished a big, dying, not-so-attractive plant that doesn't even belong to them–that gene that makes them not even question whether it's worth the bother. "You would keep it alive too, if it was in your house," they assure me. Their confidence in this assertion, I find strangely comforting.

Last weekend, I spent 12 hours in the Emergency Room. I had passed out while leading services earlier in the week (right after we had praised God for "lifting up the fallen," ironically) and had developed some scary symptoms in the days that followed that needed to be checked out. The day went something like this: Sit in waiting room for an hour; blood test; waiting room for an hour; EKG; waiting room for an hour; meet with "Doctor Mazal" (seriously, that was her name); waiting room for an hour; 'nother blood test; waiting room for an hour; 'nother EKG. And all the while, there was Tracy. She stayed the entire time, except for the hour she left in order to go home and pick me up some snacks. This is no small thing–giving up an entire day here. We have so much to do all the time in this program that I am often hard-pressed to give up so much as even an hour to do something that isn't on my list of things to accomplish or places I'm supposed to be. But, you see, Tracy has the plant gene. So for her, there was no question of where and how she should spend those 12 hours. This is just who she is.

And there are others here with the plant gene. Andrea and Sara, who sleep only four hours a night because of their newborn and still insisted on accompanying me to a doctor and cooking me dinner that first night. Anne, who brought me food all week without my even having to ask. Keren, who spent the time to keep me from falling behind in Grammar. Aron, who taped Bible class for me. Eli, who made me the most amazing soup. Nancy, who called every few hours to check in. Daniel, for not thinking my grapefruit-theory was lunatic. My teachers, who've been concerned and understanding. Everyone who made sure I didn't walk home alone when I wasn't feeling well, or offered to come with me for my follow-up tests, or continues to offer to go grocery shopping.

I would love to be able to say with confidence that I know I have the plant gene–the gene which seems so widespread among the HUC population. But all I can really say confidently, for now, is that I have Pesach. A timely reminder, to remember. To remember what this experience has been like, so that whether or not I am blessed with the plant gene, I will recognize–and know what to do–when others are in a similar position.

Tracy and Steph are leaving town again for the holiday. They'll leave the little water bottle next to the big, dying plant, and they'll entrust me with its care. And I'll do my best to live up to their example.

To read the actual post and see pictures, check out

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