FoodCorps Friday- Seeds are the Ultimate Symbol of Hope
By, Captain Planet Foundation service member, Susie Pope
There is something very spiritual about gardening. There is something even more spiritual about gardening with kids. If I were to try to describe what I mean by this I would use words like “nurturing,” “patience,” “growth” but they don’t seem to be enough. Maybe it is something that cannot be described like that, maybe I need to share a story in which I experienced this something spiritual.
A few weeks back, I was wondering to myself, how I might teach a lesson to the students in the garden that includes a way for the kids to explore their own compassion and do something good for others. I remembered an activity my former coworker, (and FoodCorps Georgia alumna!), Lauren Ladov, and I used last year to teach kids about “food access.” In this activity popsicle sticks that were spread out across the grass would represent meals, and when I said “go” the students were to run and try to gather their meals for the week. So, if they were a family of 1, they would need 21 popsicles sticks to have three meals a day for the week. Seems easy enough, right? But there is one more part to this activity. Some students had to wear paper bags on their hands, some students were blindfolded, some students had their legs tied together, and some students were in a large family and needed to gather more popsicle sticks than others. After the activity was over, we discussed how just as in the game, in “real-life” some people have a harder time accessing food, especially healthy food. What if you didn’t have a car and had a large family, would it be easy to carry a lot of groceries on the bus? What if the grocery store was really far away? We discussed how it would be more difficult for older people, poor people, homeless people, people who didn’t know the language, etc. Then I asked the students how we might use the garden to help those who have a harder time getting healthy food or any food at all?
This is where I became overwhelmed with that something spiritual. It was incredible and huge and important and there was something pouring out of their hearts that I wished the whole world could experience. The students wanted not only give away our harvest, but they wanted turn their elementary school into a shelter during the evenings. They wanted their garden to supply food to the folks who stayed in the shelter. One child suggested we keep a refrigerator in the garden so people could donate things like milk for the hungry too. Even my youngest class, kindergarten, understood how we can help others through the garden; “Why don’t we make them their own gardens and teach them how to have food forever!” Their ideas were kind in big ways, and they were selfless, really, really selfless.
This day we were going to be sharing our garden with our refugee community. I asked them, “Who has ever heard of the word ‘refugee’?” Many students had heard the word, but they were not sure what it meant. We discussed how sometimes people need to leave their home because it is no longer a safe place to live and move, often times on foot leaving behind everything they own to find a safer, new home. Living next door to one of our nation’s largest refugee communities, we were going to find a way to share our garden with our new neighbors, help them feel at home, make friends, and “teach them how to have food forever.” We planted black eyed peas with a wish for our new friends and promised we would give them our harvest. Then we decorated seed packets and cards to welcome them. Their cards, their wishes, and their kindness will ripple far and I am sure, already has. The world needs more adults like these children.