Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon 3/29/2004 3:41 AM
Random Thought: Thorns or Blooms

I was bending over one my rose bushes, spraying it with some spray that supposed to fight black spot, when I felt a stab of pain in my finger. Recoiling, I saw this little triangular lance sticking in my skin and tiny red globules forming along the small line it had scratched. As I pulled it out with my teeth and started sucking my finger, a car pulled over to the curb. The window rolled down and a woman leaned out.

"I just had to tell you how much I admire your garden," she said.

Every gardener loves such compliments. I felt like my beloved UNC had just won the NCAA basketball championship. "Thank you. I really appreciate that. You should come by and see it in a week or two," I answered as I walked over to the car with my finger in my mouth.

"I can't wait. At this time of the year, I drive by almost every day just to see what is showing in your yard. Did you hurt yourself?"

"Roses. Now I know why they call those thorns 'suckers,'" I joked as I put my finger to my mouth once again.

"Why do pretty things have to have such ugly thorns?" she asked.

"Maybe so you'll appreciate them more. It's no big deal. Goes with the territory."

"They are a big deal for me. I don't have roses because the thorns make them so troublesome. I just buy them at the florist."

"Wait until you see that first bloom," I assured her as I pointed to a bush as the back of the garden. "It and the others will make all the scratches worthwhile. Roses are the only flowers I voluntarily cut and take inside the house."

We chatted for a few minutes more. As she drove off with a chuckle and I returned to leave the roses to feed the lawn with a homemade concoction of cheap beer, sugar, and vinegar, three words from our conversation stuck in my head: thorns, roses, troublesome. For this woman, those thorns were huge obstructions to fully appreciating what it takes to get roses. For me, those needle sharp suckers are just little things, tiny pinpricks, that I won't let chaff, bother, annoy, stop, or wear me down.

This little exchange got me thinking. It's not an original thought. I'm sure if you google the web you'll find thousands of sites that discuss thorns and roses. Nevertheless, I'm going to put in my two cents. Too many students come to us seeing only their own thorns and have to be shown the rose within them. Yet, too many of us academics think the classroom is too thorny, almost like a briar patch. Far too many of us, not wanting to bother to take the trouble, tend not to tend to the student before he or she is ready to bloom. In fact, far too many don't believe there are roses within a lot of the students and any efforts we may exert would be wasted and futile. And then, we wonder why this neglected person whom we didn't water or feed or nurture, didn't bloom to his or her potential, if at all.

I think the greatest gift a teacher can bestow on a student is to come to the classroom seeing the noble rose in each student's soul, determined to show a student that beauty within him or her, and committed to helping a student see and reach past his or her thorns. Sure, students are not low maintenance any more than are roses. Sure, it all takes enthusiasm, tenderness, time, faith, effort, thoughtfulness, hope, passion, and love. Sure, you'll get your fingers pricked. Sure, you'll get your hands and legs scratched. But, as I told the woman, when you see that one bloom, two blooms, ten blooms, twenty blooms, you know it is all worthwhile.

So, when you look at a rose bush or a student, what should you see. What is it your duty to see? Thorns? Roses? I say, "Screw the thorns!"

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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