Readers write: Seeing the good, a fig tree saga, and more

Letters to the editor for the Oct. 5, 2020 weekly magazine. Readers discuss the difficulties of fig cultivation, searching for positivity, and more.


Seeing the good

It has become my practice over the years, when some “disaster” or difficulty comes into my experience, to look for the blessing. Every difficulty eventually reveals some blessing as part of its unfoldment, and so I like to expect and look for a blessing, no matter how difficult my experience.

Several of the articles in the July 27 issue of the Monitor Weekly illustrate how much this pandemic has brought us all together, and moved us to appreciate one another and work for one another – and so has actually united us in ways that would not otherwise have occurred. 

In the article “‘What we do is help’: Not for the first time, Mexican neighbors band together for the pandemic,” I read how informal workers in Mexico have worked together to bless one another, for instance. 

In “Farm to food bank: Moving farmers from ‘dump’ to ‘donate,’” I learned how German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have worked together toward financing aid in response to the pandemic in Europe. 

And in the cover story “Out of global upheaval, a new Olympic spirit,” I saw how Olympic athletes all over the world have been united as they find ways to prepare for the next Olympics; they now seem to appreciate one another more than before. 

Thank you for highlighting these blessings flowing from the pandemic. We are waking up spiritually and learning to work together in support of one another as a result of it, and so are coming closer together. Regardless of what happens, God is at work in all of us so beautifully!

James Raynesford
Lakewood, California

A fig tree saga 

Mary Ekstrand’s Home Forum essay, “Too many figs! Or so I thought,” in the June 15 Monitor Weekly brings back memories of the 1950s when my grandmother was determined to grow fig trees at her home in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The species of fig she desired could not withstand freezing weather – rather an obstacle in Bridgeport. Now, we had read that the Rockefeller family grew citrus on its New York estate by bringing the trees into heated greenhouses every winter. Our family was somewhat lacking in Rockefeller resources and required a less costly solution. 

So we employed an alternative (back-breaking) technique: Each autumn, these rather large trees were dug up and buried in deep trenches below the frost line. In late spring when the danger of frost had passed, the trenches would be opened and the trees stood upright for another growing season.

Unlike Ms. Ekstrand’s overly productive Seattle fig trees, the Bridgeport trees were quite stingy with fruit and evidently did not like the ritual of being dug up and buried every year.

After many years of this exercise, we suggested to my grandmother that the trees should, by now, be acclimated to New England winters. We skipped the burial ritual that year – and sadly that was the end of the Bridgeport figs.

Harry Melkonian
Vaucluse, Australia

Quality writing

Ryan Lenora Brown’s article “99 days, 4 lives, 1 pandemic: South Africa in lockdown” in the Aug. 10 Monitor Weekly is one of the best news stories I’ve ever read. Is it too much to praise it as a kind of diminutive journalistic “Ulysses”? May all your writers achieve such transcendence of the medium and with such relevant social importance.

Stephen Rose
Hudson Valley, New York

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

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