More Day 2: Lessons from the Community Garden

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Below was written by Mackenzie O’Connell

Today I went to an Open Land farm. Open Land farms are community gardens in Chicago that aim to supply the community with free vegetables and fruit, and raise local property values. My group went to a garden owned by a sweet lady named Queen. Queen is 70 years old, almost completely deaf, and takes care of the large garden all by herself. Before arriving at the garden, everyone in my group was in need of a nap and dreading our three hours of labor in the dirt and hot sun. I thought that this garden would be extremely overgrown and dead, but once we arrived, it was beautiful and filled with blooming flowers and green grass! At the garden my task was to weed, but others in my group mowed the grass, weed-wacked, and organized a compost pile. Throughout the day Queen said whatever popped into her mind, and it was hilarious and helped make our work much easier! I asked Queen what she did with the vegetables after she harvested them and her response will forever stick with me. She said “When you eat the vegetables alone, they don’t taste good, but when you share them with others and eat them together, they taste much better.” Queen’s comment meant so much to me because often times I focus on what I don’t have, rather than the abundance of things I do have. I realized that I should be re-focusing all of that energy towards giving other people what they don’t have and what they need. After we finished gardening, my group stepped back to look at what we had done. The garden looked even more beautiful and every single one of us felt accomplished! I wouldn’t trade this day for anything and being in Chicago has opened my eyes to a different kind of world and because of people like Queen, my life and attitude towards things will forever be changed for the better.

-Mackenzie O’Connell