A Hundred Pounds of Purple Potatoes


Three years ago, I enjoyed a wonderful fall semester at the University of Notre Dame teaching a preaching class and writing Let’s Talk about Truth.  When the semester ended and I was moving out of my apartment, I passed on those unavoidable pantry odds and ends to a dear colleague in the preaching department, Karla.  I can’t remember what all I gave her.  Probably a shaker of salt, some ketchup packets, and a half box of granola.  But definitely there were five small purple potatoes in the sack.

The reason that I know there were five small purple potatoes is because Karla planted them in her garden and has sent me pictures of her purple potato production ever since.  This fall, she harvested 28 flats, approximately 100 pounds of purple potatoes.  Obviously, this speaks to Karla’s gardening skills and the fine soil on the border between Indiana and Michigan.  But still it is kind of amazing to think what five purple potatoes can lead to.  Mind you, these were not fancy super potatoes that I got somewhere.  They were from Meijers.  And it has been a reminder to me all week of how even the littlest things of life have a power and potential within them that can produce really big results. 

The past couple days I’ve been in the Philippines (alas, only virtually) for the international Dominican Preaching Network gathering.  I got to tell the story of how I got involved in the ministry of preaching (starts at around Minute 30 of the recording) and, in preparing for the event, I was remembering how it was two young priests at the parish I grew up in who first asked me to reflect on the story of the Multiplication of the Loaves for a Lenten service, and then later to share the same reflection at Sunday Mass.  I wonder if either of them knows what a difference their seemingly small invitation made in my own life.  Clearly, I owe each a thank you note. 

At the same time, the past couple nights, I’ve been reading The Midnight Library at the recommendation of my sister, a school librarian.  I thought it was going to be about the importance of librarians.  Well, it was.  But it was more than that.  It was a reminder once again of how the smallest acts of kindness can change everything in a person’s life.  If you are of the mind that it is too early in the Fall to watch It’s a Wonderful Life (I agree), but are looking for a similar spirit-lifting pick-me-up, I recommend it.  It is a quick read and you never know what five small purple potatoes might lead to.