There is something that feels infinitely right about a young child charging toward a garbage can stocked with shovels, rakes, and hoes poking precariously outward. It’s the perfect metaphor for childhood, when discovery and wonder are found at their highest concentrations—when curiosity is the only way of life, and Band-Aids are abundant. I thought about the rich histories of tools and mentorship, how they complement one another, as I put my right foot on one side of a shovel and asked a child to do the same with her left. She hadn’t yet learned the angle, the amount of tension to gather in the limbs. Together, we pressed down and broke the earth.
On Friday, September 29th, Lindsey Chapman, the Far Northeast Home Depot Manager, and three employees arrived at Amesse Elementary just before the school day ended to donate time and plants for a beautification project. While we waited for the last bell to ring and the subsequent stampede out of the front doors, we weeded and discussed why we do this, why this feels good. In the end, we were able to rally seven parent volunteers and their children. The three flowerbeds adorning the sides of the building were anything except inviting, but the sense of community established by students, parents, staff, and volunteers collaborating in the dirt was our ultimate goal.
Beforehand, my site supervisor, Community Engagement Specialist Michael Williams, and I attempted to recruit students and their parents to join us in the project by handing out flyers and speaking to any adults we saw who would stop to listen. The children were instrumental in this endeavor, often translating for their parents, siblings, or grandparents what I couldn’t convey in my broken Spanish. Luckily, speaking the same language is not a necessity for planting mums together. I smiled at the mothers watching their children bend to spread red cedar bark, handle a shovel twice their height, and loosen the flower roots with their fingers before placing them in the soil. The language of work is universal, and through work we have begun a conversation of service and outreach within the school as well as the Montbello community. Stay tuned.
By Iris Craig