Yesterday when I picked my daughter up from school, she was telling me the story of a rather nasty looking cut on her leg that she got while she was at her dad’s house. She’d been climbing a tree with her neighbor-friend, a little girl one year older. Somehow she missed her footing on the way down, and cut her leg on a metal fence. “And I’m so proud of Anna”, she said to me.

“Oh, yeah? Why is that?” I asked.

“Because the very first thing she said was, I’ll go get you some plantain!”

Amber explained that she was so proud because she had taught Anna about Plantain, and over the last year or so the lessons were reinforced when they played. She was so proud that when she was hurt, Anna’s first thought was to go find Amber’s special ally plant, Plantain – best friend to children on playgrounds everywhere!

Plantain is an excellent wound healer. In fact, if it’s on your skin, Plantain can fix it: scrapes, bruises, puncture wounds, blisters, burns, mosquito or other bug bites – you name it, Plantain’s got you covered. It was the first plant that Amber learned, and although she can now identify and use more plants than most adults, it is still her favorite.

I thought for a few minutes, and then I said that actually, I was proud of her. She was completely confused – why was I proud of her? For teaching Anna, I said. In teaching her friend to use a simple little plant, she had changed her life. She had given Anna a connection to the plants that she may never have formed, and had reinforced it carefully until now she’s sure it stuck. Maybe Anna will never learn another plant. Maybe she’ll grow up to be an accountant or a marketing executive – she’s only 9, who can know? But one thing is for sure: she has a connection with the plant world that she will remember. And even if she grows up to be a chemist and work in a sterile laboratory, when she has kids, like as not she’ll remember Plantain and teach them that little bit of playground plant medicine. (Or who knows, maybe she’ll grow up to be a botanist!)

Knowing deeply that we are in relationship with the plants around us, whether that relationship is filled with longwinded friendly conversations or just a simple bit of playground medicine, necessarily changes our behavior. More and more, we are not ON this earth, we ARE this earth. More and more, we see how everything is connected: it affects our priorities and the decisions we make.

And in this little girl’s life, Amber was the catalyst for that.

When I finished explaining, she sat quietly for a while, with a thoughtful smile. Later, at dinner, she wanted me to tell the story of “How I Changed Anna’s Life”, and I was happy to do it.

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