It is raining today in California. I am so glad, because in this perennially drought-ridden state, we always need rain. Also, the fact that it’s a rather grey, gloomy day makes the prospect of staying inside to grade my students’ papers more attractive: Spending time in my garden is not a temptation right now.
This wet weather reminded me of the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers.” When I looked it up, I was surprised to learn how old the expression actually is. According to a website called “Beyond the Forecast,” the line originated with a British poet named Thomas Tusser. In 1557, he wrote “Sweet April showers do spring May flowers”.
There are a few ways we can interpret the saying. One is that we shouldn’t be sad if activities planned for an April day are dampened by inclement weather, because in a few weeks, spring will have truly arrived and we will enjoy balmy days. (Of course, I am writing from a Northern Hemisphere perspective.)
Another is to say that, literally, in order for flowers to bloom, there must be rain – or figuratively, resources are needed to generate production – whether it be of flowers or manufactured goods or teaching materials or research results. In a more spiritual sense, the phrase may mean that suffering sometimes precedes blessings (a related phrase being “into every life a little rain must fall”).
But the word showers as a noun also has very positive connotations in many contexts. For instance, some cultures have traditions of bridal showers or baby showers – the name presumably referring to the idea that the bride or the parents-to-be are showered with gifts that will be useful in the marriage or for the new child.
The image of showers also seems to convey bounty or abundance. Dictionary.com says that in its verb use, to shower means “to bestow liberally or lavishly” and “to deluge (a person) with gifts, favors, etc.” We can think of the image of a beautiful meteor shower – watching the night sky filled with shooting stars. This meaning is conveyed in the James Taylor song, “Shower the People you Love with Love.”
I can apply some of these ideas about showers to the fundraising work and financial stability of TIRF. In the sadder view, it seems that we may have to go through challenging times before the Foundation can grow. But in the positive view, given sufficient rainfall, TIRF’s work can blossom. (I know, I know – I’m getting carried away with flower metaphors here. Maybe my garden is tempting me more than I realized.)
Let me return to the April-May contrast. As this month ends, we enter into one of the most exciting parts of TIRF’s calendar: the due date for the annual Doctoral Dissertation Grant (DDG) proposals. In just a few weeks, the 2022 competition will close. There follows a period of intense activity when Ryan Damerow (TIRF’s Chief Operating Officer) and MaryAnn Christison (the Chair of the Research Advisory Committee) will distribute the proposals to dozens of knowledgeable volunteer reviewers.
For me, as a regular reviewer of the DDG proposals, it is a joyful time: The proposals are typically interesting, well written, and even creative. I learn a great deal from the up-to-date literature reviews and I get new ideas for research methods and resources I can share with my students. Every year, the members of the TIRF Board of Trustees look forward to approving the list of DDG awardees.
But like a rainy day, this time of year can also bring some sadness. There are many terrific research proposals that we would like to fund but cannot because our budget is so limited. Every year, Ryan and the Trustees brainstorm about new sources of revenue, ideas for expanding donations, and professional services the Foundation could offer to raise more money.
So now we come to the point with which I end almost every Chair’s Report. Please can you help? Donations from you and other supporters can make the difference between whether a proposal is funded or not. With any luck, my plea will result in the showering of funds for TIRF-supported research in language education.
Please will you click here to donate to TIRF?