Monday, January 11, 2010

Flowerbeds ran across the entire front of the house we used to live in. Every spring I made an investment of time and money choosing, planting, and grooming red, white, and purple petunias. They must have loved living with me because they bloomed nonstop from late April until mid-October. The HGTV folks would have been proud.

Not long after the 4th of July, the wear of hot sun and hungry bugs would show up on the petunias. Their color started to dim and as my mom would say, they would get leggy. The midsummer ritual was to trim them back, put fertilizer in the beds and spray their tops and undersides with bug killer. Within a few days they would perk back up and show off like little girls until the first frost.

One summer, tune-up time for the flowerbeds landed two weeks after Jill’s wedding. The petunias looked like a group of awkward, scrawny, junior highers standing out front. I had been so saturated in mother-of-the-bride busyness I barely took time to water. To make up for my neglect, I spent most of one morning trimming, fertilizing, bug spraying and apologizing, promising I would take better care of them for the rest of the summer.

Two days later I went out early with a hot cup of coffee to check on the girls. About half of the flowers were drooped over as if they had barely survived the stomach flu. It was hot, but I was watering every day. This was a complete mystery. I went to the garage to check labels to see if I had over fertilized or over sprayed for bugs. I was mortified when I discovered I hadn’t sprayed for bugs, but for weeds! I had attacked my beautiful petunias with weed killer! Unbelievable!

The petunia massacre, as my kids called it, was nothing but carelessness. Like spraying weed killer, we can carelessly sprinkle or spatter unkind words on friends and family because we are distracted or too busy. The amazing power of words is scary. We can praise and encourage or criticize and destroy. Consider the potential damage before you speak. Be careful with petunias and cautious with your words.

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