lessons on solidarity from a raided garden
Raccoons ate all of our small (admittedly pathetic) patch of sweet corn and they stole a good fraction of our grapes. At 5:00 o’clock one morning, I stood on my steps in my boxers (while Carol helpfully tried to take pictures, which fortunately didn’t turn out) and responded to their crimes by beating on them with a long but light piece of driftwood. I did not feel bad about this violent response – I felt they needed the feedback, and they only grudgingly shuffled off: in their minds the grapes were almost worth being whacked by sticks.
During these same days, kids were wastefully stealing food from our community garden. Tomatoes were picked and tossed around; squash and eggplants were missing; carrots were pulled up and left to dry up. Though twice catching the kids in the act, I did not turn to sticks this time, but I did wonder out loud to a friend whether it was appropriate to consider electric fencing to keep kids out. And this time I did feel bad about the slightly violent thought.
I accept my anger, though. Wasting garden produce that I and others worked hard for is frustrating (and I doubt much of it was actually being eaten – unlike the raccoons’ raid). And I was afraid this kind of damage could threaten the whole community garden effort. So it made sense to be angry.
But a conversation with fellow gardeners soon revealed the identity of these junior vandals. Not surprisingly, they did not seem to have a home life with any stability or much care. There wouldn’t be any quick fix by chatting to a parent. These kids likely knew very little about boundaries or respecting the hard work of others. There was no obvious solution to the vulnerability of our garden from these kids and their careless destruction.
But hearing some of the details of their plight reminded me of the families in the neighbourhood who might otherwise be ignored. Until these kids raided our garden, I was ignorant of their particular story. The pain some of us felt in relation to the garden damage tied us all in with the pain these kids feel (at some level) for their lack of guidance and nurture. It was a reminder of solidarity. Why shouldn’t those of us who have much more secure lives be made to feel a very tiny taste of the emotional pain these kids live with daily. So I am left asking myself whether a reminder of this solidarity (and, who knows, maybe increased motivation to help address the larger questions?) might be worthwhile fruit from a season’s effort in a garden – perhaps worth more than a couple of squash.