Lately I’ve been thinking about nourishment in all its forms. This summer, like always, we started a garden with good intentions. We planted seeds inside on a cold spring morning and watched them grow until we transplanted our tomatoes and peppers to their outside containers, waiting for August so that we could be rewarded. As the summer progressed these plants grew leafy and impressive, but the fruits just didn’t come. I kept making excuses that these little plants would catch up with where they should be soon. But then tomato season came and our green fruits hadn’t grown larger than marbles. Then I stopped creating excuses and tried to figure out where we’d gone wrong.
As it turns out, though we placed our plants in large containers, they weren’t big enough. Our plants had simply grown too large and needed more space to fruit and flourish. So Regan and I decided, though they may not survive transplantation at such a late stage, we’d give it a try. On a rainy afternoon we moved our Amish Paste, Purple Cherokee and Green Pepper plants to our large raised bed. For a week after the big move these little guys fought. Their leaves shriveled and branches fell off. I felt a little heartsick at the stress I’d caused, and mourned a bit when I realized this probably wouldn’t be the year for fresh tomatoes off the vine.
But all of a sudden it seems our plants have won their battle. Their leaves have unfurled and flowers are blooming on the plants again. There are growing fruits on all the bushes now, getting bigger each day, far surpassing the size they were when in the pots that refused to let them grow. It fills me with happiness to see them doing well. My hope is that summer sticks around a bit longer than normal so that we can give these plants the heat and light they need to keep growing.
While sitting in my garden this morning, looking at these growing plants, I couldn’t help but think about proper nourishment. I spent Saturday in a juvenile detention facility for work, speaking to the youth about options available to them in the community once released. As I talked with these kids one on one, I started seeing that their families treated them like I had treated my plants. I gave them what I thought they needed to survive and then sat back to watch them grow, but didn’t think about them much until I realized they had failed.
With a little more attention and care given to the majority of these kids they wouldn’t have been in juvenile detention at all. But where else do you land when you don’t have a family to go home to or when you constantly bounce around in the foster system? What happens when all you see around you is substance abuse — where do you go from there?
After going through security on Saturday, making sure I didn’t have pens or pamphlets that contained staples I became a little alarmed. But once in the gymnasium I realized I was hanging out with a bunch of kids who were just forced to grow up too fast. The only expectation they’d ever had put upon them was that they would survive instead of constantly being given nourishment along the way. These kids were quiet with sly smiles that got bigger when asked what they liked about the movies. Their eyes lit up when they talked about the stories they would tell if they made a movie. They talked about some of their fears in telling stories — like, would they have to go to college or get smarter to tell them well? I promised them that story telling can be whatever they want it to be. They can do as much or as little with it as is comfortable. They can have fancy filmmaking equipment but they can also have the oldest equipment ever. It’s the vision they bring to the story and the perspective they give.
But as with my garden and realizing it was failing too late, people who care are entering these kids’ lives really late. The majority of these kids have just gone untended for so long. Now they are in a detention center where the staff and social workers are doing their best, but they can’t erase everything that put these kids there. There’s so much more catching up they need to do. I hope so much they find the nourishment and the environment they need to grow because there was so much hope in them and so much energy in the people who work with them day after day, giving them their all.