Congratulations to Terri Pruitt for Winning the April 2023 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

If you were in charge of a garden where everything planted was guaranteed to thrive, what would you want to grow and why?

Terri painted a heartwarming picture of a life-affirming garden. Enjoy her winning submission:

I’ve heard older people say, “Give me my flowers while I can smell them.”  I always immediately think of a garden filled with encouraging and loving words waiting to be picked like flowers when I hear someone say this. 

This saying, which means to pay homage to me while I’m alive and well, lends to the fact that many times, when a person is no longer alive, there are droves of people waiting to say how wonderful they were when they were alive.

Often, the person never heard those affirmations, and it saddens me to think that there were missed opportunities to brighten someone’s day.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a garden where these words of love, joy, and encouragement grew like flowers?

The garden I would be in charge of is just that. Flowers of words that depict love, joy, and encouragement would grow and thrive in my garden. I’d grow these flowers in my garden because we often can’t find the words, and the flowers from this garden would be symbols of forgotten sentiments.

We could pick them daily and give them to family, friends, and strangers. Love would thrive throughout this garden. I would tend the garden daily by watering and nurturing and revel in the good and bountiful harvest it yielded.

Many cross our paths on this journey of life. How many times during the day do we miss the opportunity to give a flower of love to a family member? We are so busy with the hustle and bustle of life. Did the last words your children hear before you sent them to school come out as yelling commands? Did you pass the homeless gentleman on the corner and ignore him as you drove to work? Did you walk into work and not speak to coworkers as you walked to your desk? Did you forget to call a family member to say I love you?

My garden is here to give you the reminder to speak life into those around you.

My garden is here to make sure that everyone we encounter knows they are loved and cared for. There is so much going on in this world that one encouraging word or smile could change the trajectory of someone’s day.

Let’s not wait until people are gone from this earth to spread the flowers of this garden. The flowers of love, joy, and encouragement are ready to brighten someone’s day. Pick these flowers freely and share them among family, friends, and even strangers you encounter, and watch the seeds spread. Watch my garden grow and thrive.