Sunday, March 15, 2015



The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (3/11/2015)


          About fifty years ago, March 9, 1965, an army buddy of mine, James Reeb, was bludgeoned by a gang of thugs in Selma, Alabama.  While in the army, we lived cheek by jowl for over a year.  He died two days later in a Birmingham hospital.  In a police riot that same night, I was jailed, shackled, and beaten.  Neither Jim nor I knew that the other was going to Selma.  We had gone to march with Martin Luther King, Jr.  Neither of us marched.  Jim was killed, and I was escorted early the next morning by the sheriff’s deputy, who had beaten and kicked me, to the bus station, and told not to return.  We believed that all human beings deserve equality having been created in the image of God and graced by Jesus Christ. 


          The thugs were tried and acquitted.


I write this not to elicit sympathy and approval and certainly not ridicule.  I’ve long passed the point in my life where those things matter.  My point is simple: someplace, sometime, somewhere in our lives for our own spiritual welfare we must do the right thing.  I believed going to Selma was the right thing.  I still do. 


          W. Somerset Maughm in the “The Summing Up” wrote: “the philistines have replaced the rack with the wise crack.”  Ridicule is in.

If people can’t think well, they will frequently resort to ridicule which means that they have nothing to say.


          I still bear the marks of that night.  I often think about Selma and doing the right thing, especially nowadays.  When I do, gardening often comes to mind.  It’s doing the right thing, something intimately and directly connected with God’s intention for the earth.  It’s not exploiting the earth for private profit.  Exploitive industries claim that they have a right to plunder the earth as a means of turning a profit, a really profane and blasphemous claim.  Their rationale is sociopathic.


          Instead of exploiting the earth, gardeners are replenishing the earth.  The “in” word is sustainability, but the word sustainability has lost its power by becoming a catch word.  The earth is a gift from God for human welfare, not something to be used up and thrown away.


          There is a phrase in the Book of Common Order’s Funeral Service referring to the deceased which reads, “made the world richer for his (or her) presence.”   We all know terrible people who have made the world worse for their presence.  Gardeners make the world richer for their presence, beginning with beauty.


          Human beings leave so many ugly constructions in their wake, such as some of the buildings at the Sawmill, that a beautiful yard is a treasure.  Beauty enhances the human spirit, while ugliness corrodes it.

How many morning walks and evening strolls have been graced by beautiful yards!


          However, beyond beauty, there is the issue of the earth’s welfare, like air, water, and soil.  The trees and bushes planted by gardeners help purify our air.  We’re at a point in the earth’s destruction where we’ll be compelled to restrict the use of water for non-essential purposes so that we can continue to drink it and irrigate the plants we use for food.    


          Ironically, many of the commercial fertilizers used in industrial agriculture are depleting the earth’s nutritional values by turning fields into wastelands.  The composting movement which began with small farmers and gardeners seeks to enrich the earth rather than deplete it, making it richer because of their presence.  Even industrial agriculture is beginning to compost, finding it cheaper and more effective than artificial fertilizers.


          Our water, soil, and air are all imperiled by human greed, the belief that exploitation for the profit of a few is acceptable.  The gardeners are teaching us that enriching the earth is the right thing.  At my age, I’ll be 88 in a few weeks, I think about the significance of my own life, especially all of the ironies.  It is better to leave the legacy that instead of corroding and ravishing the world that we have enriched it by doing the right thing.   


Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2015


Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at 










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