How much difference does an hour a week make? Plants may have the answer.

This fall I finally learned how to how to take care of my succulents.

In six years of living in California, I’ve managed to keep quite a few succulents alive. Some of them even seemed to be happy at times.

But a couple months ago I took a hard look at the sad little collection on my porch and realized that something needed to happen, and fast. Since moving my plants (and myself) to Vallejo a little over a year ago, my plants had not exactly been thriving. And now they seemed to be actively starting to go kaput. I had tried moving them to spots with more sun, to spots with less sun, to spots with less wind. None of it was working.

The solution turned out to be quite simple: I was not watering them properly.

After my unsuccessful attempts to find magical porch locations that my plants would like, I finally took to the interweb to read up on succulent care.

A great website called Succulents & Sunshine offers a tutorial on the proper way to water your plants. Whereas many people (like me) assume that you should give your succulents little bits of water every day or two, the proper approach is to “flood” them every few days, giving them more water than you think is necessary, until it runs through the bottom of the pot.

The explanation for this fascinated me. This watering cycle imitates the extremes of a desert climate, where plants experience periodic heavy rains. They have adapted to grow thick, deep roots during these times of plenty, anticipating the dry weeks to come.

By contrast, the website said that if you give your succulents little trickles of water every day, they will instead grow shallow, weak roots, always expecting that there will be more water the next day.

As soon as I started following this watering protocol, all of my succulents almost immediately made a turnaround. Within a week, they were green, vibrant, and growing again.

What I learned about how to water my plants can be applied to how people grow and thrive as well.

Sometimes it is difficult to believe – even for Chris and myself as we talk about Braid and train new mentors – that an hour a week can really make a difference. How can that possibly be enough to counteract everything else that might happen in the other 167 hours of the week, or what has already happened in a child’s lifetime?

But I think the hour a week mentors spend is like that “flood” I have been giving my plants. It is special because it doesn’t happen very day. And it helps your youth grow deeper, healthier roots between those visits.

As you know, the holidays are an especially difficult time for foster youth, and for anyone who is separated from family or who isn’t having the idyllic festivities portrayed in our culture. These next few weeks will also likely be a time of drought for our teams, as travel schedules and other commitments mean that you will naturally have time apart from your youth.

We know that in your infinite faithfulness you are finding ways to let your youth know that you care about them during your time apart. And I hope that you will trust that the hours you have spent with them this year have helped them become stronger, healthier, and more resilient, able to weather whatever this season brings.

They can do this in part because they know you will be there in the new year: faithful, nurturing, and eager to help them grow.

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