A healing story I wrote for Syrian refugee children coming to the Child Friendly Space that AMURT runs in Lebanon for the second training I was asked to lead – 9 months after the project launched. The story offers a metaphorical mirror for these children whose lives have been uprooted into a new country. They have experienced interruptions in their schooling and must struggle to catch up again in a new, strange environment.
A tiny tomato seed was planted in the warm, dark earth inside of a safe greenhouse. Soon, a tiny green shoot had sprouted through the earth, and began reaching up towards the sunlight. It grew, and grew…And then one day, a shovel came, and roughly dug into the earth next to her and in one sudden lurching movement, the tomato plant was dizzily free of its familiar bed of earth. A small chunk of earth clung to her tiny hair like roots. Several of the roots stung as they had been severed when the plant had been torn from the ground.
The plant was crowded into a tray with many other little plants. They could barely breathe. And then a motor hummed, and suddenly the earth was moving underneath then and rumbling and jostling. They fell over onto one another, some of their fragile leaves snapped off.
A long time passed, and the little plants just waited, huddled together. Most mornings they received a brief shower of water from above. But a long time days passed without water…they were so thirsty. The little plants couldn’t keep growing towards the sun. They began to wilt..some of the leaves were turning yellow. They cried out for water – they wanted to grow again.
At last their cries were heard. A concerned voice “Oh – these plants need to get into the ground!!! Who left them here?”
The little plant again found herself flying through the air, and then she was settled into a carefully prepared hole, already soaked with water. The half covered roots were then snugly covered up with earth. The little plant was happy – but so exhausted that she just slumped over onto the earth. She didn’t even have the strength to stand up straight – especially with the rays of sun beating down as the sun rose high into the sky.
There were other tomato plants nearby – strong and tall. They seemed to be laughing at the sadly wilted newcomers. Already they had yellow flowers brightly decorating their branches -that would turn into red tomatoes in a few more weeks.
That night when the hot sun set behind the stony mountains, a cool moon rose in the sky and gently shone its healing light on the little tomato plant. The moon told the plant – you are safe now and can let your roots stretch into the ground again. I will send morning dew for you to drink and grow strong, and soon you will catch up with the other plants and you too will have beautiful yellow flowers and lovely juicy tomatoes!”
The next morning, it wasn’t easy and the little plant had to struggle, but already she was standing up a bit straighter. The farmer came and planted a strong pole next to her and gently tied bits of string to her stems to support her to grow nice and tall. Though she was smaller than the others and had to work hard to grow, day by day the little plant was climbing higher and higher thanks to the pole. The farmer took extra care to give her steady showers of rain and a little bit of extra fertile black manure so she could catch up. Soonthe tomato plant was doing what tomato plants do – stretching her leaves up to the sun and growing, growing, growing.
Before long – yellow buds unfurled on its branches. In a few more weeks, when the flowers had dried up, they left behind small green knobs that began to swell every day. The green tomatoes warmed in the summer sunshine, and began blushing into red. The little tomato plant had grown into a tall, strong tomato plant just like the other plants, and offered its juicy, sweet, red tomatoes to the farmer.