I’ve been spending a lot of time in my backyard garden. Now, it ain’t much. A few different fruit and veggie plants, some flowers, and a lot of weeds. Every night and sometimes during the day when Charlotte is fast asleep, I go out and walk around. I bend down and look closely at what is growing assessing each leaf and blossom, checking for growth, pruning here and there, trellising and waiting for fruit. I mean, what else would you do in the garden, right? But it’s got me to thinking – being in community is a lot like tending a garden.
A garden is comprised of many parts. You have the Ians who run to the garden store and want to fill the backyard with 100 things and try everything at once. You have the Megs who take it slow, learning each plant year by year and not pushing too fast. You have the bugs, some that eat the plants and some that help. You have water and soil which feeds and nourishes. You have the sun, bringing life to the plants. You have leaves that provide shade to the fruit. And you have your harvest, the fruit of your labour.
Last year our garden was not so big. We had a couple of tomato plants and some peppers. That’s about it! This year we have tomatoes and peppers, but we’ve added zucchini, cucumber, brussel sprouts, raspberry, strawberry, a watermelon and some flowers. Oh, and some beans! Some things I started from seed and some came started. Some things are from friends who have given me what they have grown, and some we bought. All of it is lovely, a heap of risk and trial and error – a hard thing for someone like me who holds tightly to security.
But much like the plants in my garden, and much like my community at The Dale, we are growing together. We need different parts to each bring their gifts. Some people at The Dale are artists, some business people, some without homes, and some with. Some are addicted to alcohol, and some to food. Many have heartache, all are beautiful. We each bring something special to the table, and we receive too in order to grow. Some give their time, and some their money. Some give a prayer, a smile, a washed dish, a dance, a wish, a cigarette, a token, some dimes.
We learn as we go. When I first started gardening, I let the squirrels get my harvest. This year I made some protection. I learned about fertilizer. I let Ian push us forward and take more risks. I’m experimenting with flowers. I still forget to water the grass… But my garden looks a lot different this year than last. Just like my journey at The Dale looks different too. I know who’s buttons should not be pressed. I know who likes to sing and who stays quiet. I know when to talk and when to hold back. I know what my gifts are and how to give. I have also learned how to receive what someone has to offer. We are both changing – me and my community just like me and my garden. And each year more lovely things are grown.
I have found a lot of joy being in the garden with Ian. and I have found a lot of joy being in community at The Dale. I am grateful for lovely things that grow over time, and I can appreciate trial and error, risk and reward, experimentation, giving and receiving, life and death. The garden, much like community, is teaching me many things.
I hope you too are growing something lovely.
I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries in Toronto. In order to do this ministry I invite others to walk alongside me prayerfully and financially. If you would like to be on my team of supporters, I invite you to reach out to me at email@example.com. I would love to chat with you about The Dale!