by Meghan Little, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA
As nine o’clock neared on Friday morning, I was pulling in in front of the Brick House, feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement. Today was our first Gardening with Kids class and we were to have a handful of three to five year-old Spanish-speaking kids under our supervision for two hours.
As I reached our garden beds, I was introduced to an eleven year-old neighborhood boy named Luis. I was told he would be joining us for the class. “Great”, I told him, “you can help us teach the little ones!” He seemed excited. As I showed him around he told me he moved from Puerto Rice to the States a month ago. He had no experience with English, giving me a great opportunity to practice my rusty Spanish. “How do you like it here?” I asked. “I like it a lot so far” he told me. After showing him around for a few minutes a group of children showed up. Our attention was quickly filled by little energetic children who wanted to touch, taste, smell, and draw everything at the same time. As we showed them how to plant seeds, identify plants, and water the pots, my mind kept wandering to Luis, who sat quietly and watched the kids running around. I thought about how difficult it must be for him and so many others like him who have (so to speak) had their roots pulled out from underneath them to be replanted in foreign soil with people that speak a different language!
Ten-thirty came and went and our two families of kids headed back from where they came, with pots full of seeds ready to grow. Luis hung around as we packed up our things and discussed how everything went. At the end of the two hours his father came to get him and I eavesdropped as I packed my bag. “Sabes que es?” (Do you know what this is?) he asked his father as he pointed to a watermelon plant. No, his father said, and I listened as he told him what each plant was. He continued to tell him what they did and what he planted and as I listened, I could hear the pride and excitement in his voice. “Nos vemos” Luis said to me as I bid them goodbye, and I noticed how less reserved he seemed. I left feeling elated. This is really what this Summer Workshop Series is all about, I thought to myself. It’s not about making money or building your resume or quantifying our success. Real success comes from the quality of the experience for each person who feels moved to be a part of our classes. Real success comes from knowing that we improved one person’s day, be it through someone learning how to change a flat, someone slowing down their busy day in a yoga class, or being able to show off to their dad about what they learned that day.
As I walked away from Luis I considered how lucky I felt to be a part of this. How lucky I am to be able to take part in a program that focuses on the here and now to create real-time solutions for everyday people, like my new friend Luis.