We live in a neighborhood with lots of gang activity. A gang of little girls, all quite young, like to knock on our door in the evenings lately. Their voices and smiles have become familiar. Their eyes sparkle with hope and expectancy. “Do you need any help?” I have tried to give them something to do in the area I’m landscaping out front, so they’ve planted many a succulent in recent days, often with the warmth of community and joy reflecting in their young eyes. When I answered that I was quite tired tonight, so maybe not, their sweet freckled faces fell in disappointment. The littlest one’s dimpled smile didn’t appear as usual.
“Oh, okay, I can show you girls where you can plant some succulents.” Their bicycles were already parked by the newly landscaped area next to our driveway. The sweet voices of little girls echoed in the cool evening air as they each grabbed a succulent start from the bigger planter and found a spot to poke a hole with their finger like I had shown them before. Then they carefully poked the root into that hole and patted the cold black soil around it, tucking the chicken and hens into the soil that will nurture life. One girl smiled brightly and said, “When you come out in the morning, you’ll find all of these small ones planted for you.” She looked so proud to be helping and others cast knowing looks.
In time these succulents will spread, and the pandemic will be behind us. Life will take over where only weeds once invaded the dirt and bark dust. The girls will remember these shared moments of joy and purpose when they ride their bikes past our place. I’ll smile, too. The red dirt rocks I brought from our farm near Silverton will remind me of generations of Swiss immigrants farming the hill country together. Memories of working side by side as a family on the farm that Kuenzis have farmed for 102 years and counting will come flooding back when I see those rocks. The discarded utility sink I brought from my grandparent’s farm house will have succulents hanging over the side, and a clematis climbing forth and blossoming later this summer. Those memories of my Swiss heritage and being part of a hard working farm family will belong to me. But this small garden will belong to our neighborhood, planted together by a gang of kids and some adults who also volunteered (or earned a bit), enjoying the wonder of working side by side to create beauty that endures.