Garden Magic Part I

This is the first of two posts about some of the ways gardening, farming, and tree planting touches the lives of those in need.

My friend Martha teaches special education. Her students, in their mid teens through early twenties, are moderately to severely developmentally disabled. The school district is urban, and the students come from a variety of living situations. When Martha applied for the job, she knew there would be as many challenges as opportunities, and she knew it was where she wanted to be.

It is not uncommon to see band aids on Martha’s arms from scratches imposed by students who are prone to unexpected physical outbursts. Some of her students cuss with vigor, experience seizures, and spontaneously strip themselves of clothing if they decide they don’t care for what they are wearing. Martha sees the spirit inside of the complicated mental and physical features of these students and provides them with unconditional attention and care. You see, Martha is an expert at working hard and waiting patiently, and as a result, students reach new levels of ability they would not without her.

It isn’t a surprise that Martha is a gardener. From what I know about her classroom, it is obvious that she knows how to plant seeds with care and wait until they bear fruit.  I think I was almost as excited as she was the evening she told me, over our every-other-Wednesday-evening cup of coffee, that she was going to plant a garden with her students.

Martha wrote her proposal and had it approved by the school principal. She forged ahead, doing her best to address concerns of some of the school’s maintenance personnel, who worried tomatoes would be more likely projectiles than salad fare. She and her husband used their weekends to gather the building materials and construct the garden, a raised bed tall enough to be accessible to the students in wheelchairs.

The day Martha was lifting the bags of soil out of her minivan, taking them to the giant garden box to be emptied, a wallflower sort of student looked out at her through the classroom window. He motioned to the bags of soil and then emphatically pointed to himself. Martha looked back and nodded.  Within moments, the bags of soil were being hauled, opened and emptied by a young man thrilled to have an opportunity to do an important job.

One day, Martha asked another student, a young man who does not speak and rarely gets to school, if he would like to water the seedlings. “He just lit up,” Martha said, seeming surprised at another breakthrough.  At one point, he was so eager to keep the watering project going that he tried to make the two-handed sign language symbol for “more,” while holding the small watering can, and at the same time hurrying toward the school building for a refill. Goose bumps crept across my arms, and a grin took over my face as I pictured it.

I’m glad gardening season is young and Martha’s classroom has a year round program. I can’t wait to hear more about what happens in that magical garden.

My name is CJ. I write for CatchBlue.

New posts appear on Mondays and Thursdays on It Feels Good To Give, the official blog of CatchBlue. Thanks for stopping by.

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One Response to “Garden Magic Part I”

  1. Pam McFarland Says:

    I’m wiping tears. How beautiful is her garden.

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