Watering, Weeding, Waiting: We're All In The Same Garden

Originally posted 4/18/18


I've been so busy with classes and with my job as project assistant that I haven't gotten around to doing a lot of food blogging lately. I did, however, want to share something that I recently did. I was asked, in my capacity as the student president of the St. Kate's Food Justice Coalition, to lead a reflection at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet's 11th Day Peace Prayer on April 11th. The theme for the prayer service was "Caring for God's Creation", and the readings, from Laudato Si and others, were centered around the sacredness of food and of the idea of food justice. I really enjoyed writing and giving this reflection, and the congregation seemed to enjoy it as well.

Watering, Weeding, Waiting: We’re All In The Same Garden

By Natalie Nation, presented on April 11, 2018

Growing up, one of my favorite books was The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss. In this book, a young boy planted a carrot seed, and he watered, and he weeded, and he waited. All the while, his parents and siblings were telling him “It won’t come up”. They said this again and again to the little boy, but he never wavered. He watered, he weeded, and he waited. And eventually, as many children’s books go, he grew a big carrot, so big, in fact, that he could barely pull it up out of the ground. He had succeeded. Because he watered, weeded, and waited, eventually, he won.

All of us, especially those who work in social justice, are familiar with this idea. We have so many ideas and so much passion. And yet, we know that the steps to success, the planting of the seed, the watering, weeding, and waiting, are tiresome. There are many voices in our lives telling us or showing us through the media that our ideas “won’t come up”. For one reason, or another, we hear through many different channels, that our ideas are too small, too big, too expensive, or that the problem we’re trying to solve isn’t a problem worth paying attention to. We’re told again and again while we work that our ideas “won’t come up”.

In thinking about our theme for tonight, “Care for creation”, let us think about the environment, the people who live in it, and also the unique intersection that arises: food justice. Our hearts all go out for the injustices that our brothers and sisters face. Let us focus on the issue of food insecurity. Food insecurity is a problem--people are struggling to feed themselves and their families. A lot of us have different ideas on how to address food insecurity. Food shelves, community gardens, policy and infrastructure changes, and more. All of these ideas fall somewhere in one of the two “feet” of love in action: charitable works, where we meet people’s immediate needs, or social justice, which addresses issues on larger community and legislative levels.

We have the issue, food insecurity, and we have the ideas, charity and justice, and we have the people who want to solve the problem. Let’s picture this scenario with a metaphor: Imagine the issue of food insecurity as an empty garden plot--empty of food, of course. This empty garden has all of us eager gardeners who want to fill the garden with nourishing food--we want to solve the problem of food insecurity in our communities, both local or global. We gardeners all have our own ideas for how to tackle the issue.

In order to fill the metaphorical garden, we need to plant seeds--we need our ideas and solutions to take root. We need some gardeners to water, to weed, and to wait in this garden for these ideas to grow and produce fruit. These are the people running the food shelves, creating programming, taking surveys to research hunger in vulnerable populations. This is the “charity” foot and is critical to meeting people’s immediate needs. We also need gardeners to place our tomato cages, to lay down mulch, to hang up the scarecrow, and to build a fence around this garden as it grows to protect it from pests. These are the people going to legislators and corporations, writing policies and building infrastructures, tackling the “justice” foot.

This garden metaphor is meant to represent the idea that though there are many gardeners, each with their own tasks, they are all working in the same garden together. In exactly the same way, we gardeners, we advocates, we social justice warriors, sometimes need to take a step back and remember that we too, are all working in the same garden, on the same issue, and we all believe it should be solved. Once we remember that, it can be easier for us to help each other with some of the more difficult parts. As our young boy in the children’s book knows, it can be incredibly difficult to water, and weed, and wait. When one gardener is on their hands and knees, pulling weeds while waiting on their spinach to grow, it can be incredibly frustrating for them to see that someone else’s spinach is already ripe for the picking. But what if one of the spinach gardeners comes over, kneels beside them in the dirt, and starts pulling weeds alongside, encouraging them all the while. Or, when the tomato vines don’t produce enough, the eggplant gardeners can offer a few of their fruits to make up the difference. When a rabbit sneaks in through a hole in the fence, all of the gardeners can work together to patch it up.

If we take a moment to think about our own lives, we might consider turning our ideas and projects into seeds in a garden. What stage are we in? Are we just planting the seeds? Are we weeding? Are we harvesting? There is a good chance that we have multiple efforts happening at once, and each of them is at a different stage. And that’s alright. We are all gardeners in the same garden. Together, we water, we weed, we wait, and eventually, we will win.