One cold January day about three years ago, there was a knock at our side door.
“Is Brother Al here? Someone told me he might want to start a garden in that big field out there?”
We love giving people tours of the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace; but especially during growing season! By growing season I mean that wonderful time of year when our garden is in full swing! As I write, I know full well that Jim Greenwood, from the Neighborhood Garden Coalition, and his generous volunteers are only days away from beginning their work. They will turn the soil - preparing it to bear not only an abundance of organic delicacies, but providing us all with an elegant display of natural beauty!
We feel blessed to have such a garden on our property but, for certain, I know I’m not the only one!
You see, “Everyoneʼs Garden”--as it is called--benefits so many people beyond our little building. It offers a safe and creative environment for individuals of various backgrounds and religions to “rub shoulders” with one another. The Garden connects neighbors to each other and the benefits of eating locally grown food through the sale of Community Supported Agriculture shares. Every harvest day also provides much needed nourishment for local food banks and households otherwise unable to access fresh, healthy food. And, while all these things are good, there is another benefit the garden provides, one that I find particularly compelling.
Every growing season some very special volunteers come to work in our garden on a regular basis. These individuals arrive with a variety of abilities and disabilities, some of which present particular challenges to engaging in activities like gardening. Well, at Everyoneʼs Garden, these neighbors of ours can “have at it” under the gentle and experienced guidance of both garden volunteers and attending counselors. Some of our visitors have come because they actually “started” some of the produce as seedlings in their classroom at the local high school. And, as always - there are creative experiences beyond the actual care of the Earth. No garden at Song and Spirit would be complete without art! Volunteers of all ages and abilities paint brightly-colored picket fences that line part of the perimeter and colorful raised garden boxes beckon those with walkers and wheelchairs - and make even these bleak winter months a bit cheerier.
Last Fall I happened upon a group of volunteers with disabilities as they headed home. While one young woman was having some difficulty making her way to the waiting van it did not prevent her from engaging in an animated and joy-filled conversation with the others about just how much the pumpkins had grown from the week before! She and her companions took great delight in an otherwise ordinary observation and looked forward to their return the next week.
As the van drove away and we waved good-bye to one another, I remember thinking to myself, if weʼve accomplished nothing else here at Song and Spirit this would be enough! (Dayeinu, indeed!)
I also remember thinking, I need to take more time checking out the pumpkins!
What’s so important about having a garden at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace? We provide people of all ages, ethnicities and abilities the opportunity to Care for God’s Creation. And they become people who make a difference in the world.