Making a difference in 2022

By Chris Enrot

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” This quote, which has likely made it onto posters in classrooms and by the coffee pot in the break room, is from philosopher William James.

A new year is often heralded with a renewed sense of hope. A restart! However, the older I get, I am seeing it more like an “I made it!” moment. Followed quickly by a “Now what?”

For gardeners, this moment is quickly filled with planning. The hope of another year outside with sun warming the back of our neck as we busy ourselves with the soil.

Often in winter, we don’t dream of weeds but instead, our thoughts turn to the harvest and beauty of the garden. Ahh gardeners, the wintertime optimist. Seed and gardening companies know how to seduce us plant nerds with catalogs of beautiful photos of flowers, interesting leaves, and fruits that make our mouths drool as we reach for the credit card.

Experience may speak to us at this moment before we hit the purchase button, reminding us “You don’t have any more room for hazelnut shrubs.” Or “What are you going to do with 10 different types of peppers?” Experience is then dismissed in favor of the challenge of trying something new. Indeed, perhaps the hope of the gardener is driven by the question of not “should we” but “could we?”

Uncertainty is the world in which gardeners choose to reside. We plug into a system of chaotic order to see what we can grow. Each gardener has a style. Some seek to enhance the order of the natural system with meticulous landscapes. And others that embrace the chaos.

Along that spectrum, I find myself shifting from one end to the other. Often seeking a middle ground where my efforts appeal to me and contribute to the greater biodiversity around me.

The choices we make do matter, though we may not know it at the time and we may never know our true impact in the world. But we can always work toward the betterment of those with whom we share this world.

Perhaps the tulips you planted, brought a smile to a passerby, that in turn gave a cheerful greeting to someone else that needed some happiness. The beauty we plant and the fruits we harvest reach beyond to make impacts big and small. There are so many decisions we make every day that make a difference to someone.

Maybe you are not a gardener. Perhaps you’re a farmer, a community organizer, or someone seeking nutritional advice to help with that New Year’s diet plan. Maybe you have questions on how to manage woodland or prairie, how to become more mindful, or strategies for dealing with aging parents. University of Illinois Extension will be there in 2022 to help you along your journey. We are here to provide research-based information to inform your decisions for 2022 so you can live your best life and help you make a difference in your community. Happy New Year!

Good Growing Quote of the Week: With the recent passing of American biologist and conservation scientist E. O. Wilson, I thought it proper to end with his words, “You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.”

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