When I moved to Summerset, it was easy to notice the aspects of the complex that were less than ideal. At the same time, it was impossible to miss the gardens that were all over the complex, in front of nearly every apartment, to the point that a unit without a garden was an anomaly. It was beautiful to see what my neighbors were growing and the greenery they caused to sprout up everywhere I turned. It reminded me of Jeremiah 29:5:
“Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.”
Jeremiah was writing to refugees, telling them to settle down and establish their lives in the land of their captors. My neighbors are not being held captive, but they came to this country as refugees and I have watched them eat the produce from the gardens they planted. The growth of crops depends on seasons and the change of seasons. In order to plant a garden and eat from it, you have to expect that you will live there long enough to see it produce fruit. You have to be around long enough for seasons to change, long enough for your crops to put down roots and grow fruit. You have to put in the time, energy, and resources to nurture the crop’s growth, with the hope that at the end of a season crops will be produced even though there will always be elements outside of your control. Similar things could be said of community development efforts.
Some of my neighbors have lived in the same apartment for over twenty years, watching many seasons come and go. They are now in a season where many of their gardens have been cut to make room for the new work that is happening. Since the gas was turned back on December 12, a month after the gas to the entire complex was turned off, many repairs and renovations have been made throughout the complex. I look forward to seeing what comes about as a result of the new changes to Summerset. I expect gardens to be planted and cultivated so they flourish and I am hopeful for new opportunities for growth and relationship building with my neighbors.
As I walk around my neighborhood looking at current and uprooted gardens, I wonder how long it will take for those gardens to grow back and what it would mean for me to be here long enough to watch those changes take place. What if I allowed my time with Care Fresno to change the way I look at my neighborhood? What if caring for the poor, orphaned, and widowed became a lifestyle? What if that meant being part of the lives of the kids I mentor long enough to watch them graduate from high school and college? Being a person they can count on to be in their lives for the long haul? What if Care Fresno interns and site leads throughout Fresno could say the same for the communities they serve?
Build houses…plant gardens…raise families...seek the welfare of the city…none of these are quick fix solutions, but investments in the future. What if I adopted a mindset that made those investments in planting gardens where I am?