How gardening saved my life… Again…

“You’re the soul that plants all of those gardens?” says the kid standing in front of me with a gun sticking out the front of his pants. I responded “yes I am” to which he responded “my brother was murdered in the 90s on the corner by the peace sign garden you built, I was going to rob you!” He yelled a “yip yip” and two more guys came out from between two abandoned house both with guns in hand. The boy standing in front of me told them to “put them behind the house, he cool”, I asked him to do the same thing and he did. It was about this point of the conversation that I realized I was going to be ok, I have been thinking about this event for close to six months now… I couldn’t write about it until I had absorbed it…

The three of them came out from behind the house and actually sat down next to me, I was rolling a cigarette and they asked me if I could roll them one. I rolled each of them a smoke and we sat on the curb and talked, I was honestly surprised by the amount of inteligence and compassion that poured out of these kids once the social barriers had been broken. The whole experience lasted 20 minutes at the most, and it took me around 6 months to process the experience enough to write about it as I have told no one of this experience… this post is my first mention of it.

The young man told me about his family and how many of them were killed in the violence, and I tried to explain that he wasn’t helping the problem by carrying a gun. He explained to me that all of his boys carry guns, and all of his enemies carry guns “I can’t walk to the store without being reminded all these ******* carry guns, I need to carry one just so ****** don’t take advantage of me!” What would you do if you lived in a war zone, would you carry a gun? What if your neighbors hated you and were always threatening you with violence… now you can’t even walk out your front door without being threatened with violence… It’s a tough situation people… think before you JUDGE!

It has been a while since I have seriously thought about this event, I am sweating as I replay this in my mind… It really scared me… and it scares me even more now that I am reliving it mentally. It wasn’t the first time I saw a gun, and it won’t be the last. The thought of a bullet with your name on it… He didn’t know me… He knew my gardens… My fucking garden saved my life…

I recently ran into him on the street, he is still up to no good… I have to look past that though… I met him the way I met him for a reason… I just haven’t figured it out yet… I haven’t had a lot of extra time to take care of the peace garden this summer… Thinking of this experience reminds me that if my neighborhood needs anything to heal, it is peace… I need to take care of that garden… Even though it usually feels like no one gives a damn about that garden or any of my gardens for that matter… I think people appreciate it… And I like to think that it helps people… I have to stop writing this post for now… It has me all fucked up at the moment…

Gardening Saves Lives – chriscondello

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3 thoughts on “How gardening saved my life… Again…

  1. I appreciate you sharing this story… such a powerful, life affirming reminder about judgement and the power of connecting through conversation. I am regularly struck by how important it is to be brave enough to just connect… and what better way than through nature?
    Thanks.
    Linette

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  2. This post has touched me in two very profound ways–1. Because I find gardening and nature as being critical to my connection wth God, and 2. Because I started an intergenerational after school ministry for young kids to work on skills that would promote peace. Thank you for exposing your vulnerability and sharing this experience.

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  3. that’s breathtaking…terrifying and affirmative all mixed together…i have PTSD so am aware stuff like this can cause a lot of anxiety later…i send you love and light and trust in the process, this amazing work you are doing with the peace garden has been given the ultimate validation and reminds me why we do this stuff – it is our own lives we are saving in theory, and it has in practice this time…
    sorry i don’t have better words for you, you deserve them…i have lit some candles for you and hope the goodwill is crossing the ocean to you…
    my tip from when some kids surrounded me and tried to run me in front of a car (how dare i look so happy as i went to my allotment garden) is when the memory comes, to allow it, and to acknowledge how close it was and then to re-affirm yourself and your work and THEN to plan something happy to do with the garden, to top up the good feelings…i used to plan my companion planting, so my brain got busy with those variables rather than what could have happened…
    i do hope that came across as supportive as i meant it, words without voice are so tricky…
    all good wishes,
    singingbird

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