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Oh, to be a sunflower

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

One of my favorite symbols of summer is the sunflower. I walked into the Dollar Tree store on Main Street this week to find a beautiful display. Several shelves were filled with possible purchases for anyone wishing to opt for sunflowers as their new kitchen decor.

It was a tempting investment, but I walked away, giving the display a nod of my approval but leaving each item on the shelf. It would have been a waste of money, really. I have no need to purchase images when I have sunflowers growing in my backyard.

Have you ever watched the development of a sunflower? Its anatomy is astounding. It has an intimate relationship with the sun even before it blooms. She always turns her face toward the sun. Even the buds of the sunflower turn in the sun’s direction. All through the day, it shifts its position, finding the sun wherever the earth’s rotation moves. This week, my very first sunflower bloom showed itself. I watched it one evening from my bedroom window and saw that its face was turned towards the prospective sunrise. This was amazing to me. Even in darkness, its focus is on the sun’s light.

One sunflower bloom is known as a composite family. Each represents hundreds of inflorescences, which is a cluster of little flowers that make up the face of the sunflower. The petals are the ray flowers or florets. The core of the sunflower face is disc flowers that put me in the mind of a honeycomb. Each disc flower contains the immature fruit that drops off to the ground as seeds.

Picture it for a moment. If you were to gather your entire family outside and ask them to form a circle with all the elders on the outside holding hands and the younger offspring standing on the inside, you could form a sunflower. All you would have to do is ask them to dress in gold and brown. That is cute. But in all seriousness, what if we could live our lives in composite like the sunflower?

Imagine your family, your community and your network with their focus, attraction and attention on nothing but the sun. They would never be distracted by the darkness in our environment because they always focus on finding the light and anticipating that the sun will rise again. Their composite work together forms beautiful displays of petals that demonstrate their soaking in the warmth of the sun. They grow together to release their young to the earth to grow another season, year after year. Each seed grows back stronger than its mature ancestor the season before. There are more flowers on its stem to adore. It is fruitful, and it has multiplied in number and strength.

I did not plant new seeds of sunflowers this year. They volunteered themselves in my garden. I recently learned from little research that sunflower plants are as beneficial to the gardener as they are harmful. Did you know that a sunflower stem actually removes harmful contaminants from the soil? Yet it is recommended that you do not plant some fruits and vegetables nearby, because the sunflower’s presence produces a chemical compound that is so strong in the soil around it that it deters the growth of neighboring life.

Oh, to be a sunflower. How I love to watch them during the day, turning ever so subtlety as if to be slow-dancing underneath the sunlight. It knows you are watching. Yet, it continues in its purpose … following the sun’s lead. It knows that its vitality, its worth, its posterity and even its name is defined by the sun. And from that alone, it draws its identity.

Life is defined as the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity and continual change preceding death. Perhaps the sunflower has its name primarily because it is the best demonstration of life. For you and your community to show the most distinguishable degree of growth, reproduction, function and continual change, your living must always be in response to the sun’s light. That light is the son of God.

The Bible tells us that he who is wise shines like the brightness of the sky and the stars above (Daniel 12:3). Perhaps the prophet Daniel should have also mentioned the sunflower, which wisely keeps its face turned to its maker’s adoring light. This is the secret of its success.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.