In coming to Bethel for my Master’s in Nursing Education, I had a plan. I was going to pursue balance in my life through teaching nursing. Community Health Nursing. This requires a Master’s degree.
A nice balanced teaching job with breaks and time to read…
I proceeded to navigate through a carefully designed curriculum
Nursing theory… we pontificated regarding the worldly truths of caring, nursing and personal connection.
I was inspired by the interpersonal theories of Rosemary Parse and Karl Marx and found myself reflecting on the way we as a society fail to share and end up paying for the poor health of the vulnerable.
Changing Roles; Next came the class where we learn about becoming a change agent. In order to pursue the balance and safety I thought were my goals, I should have run from this one.
It caused me to reflect on problems and systems and worse yet, my personal spiritual responsibility to affect change.
Within this class we actively studied our spiritual priorities and how we live accordingly. I struggled with benevolence and hungry people. Health, wellness, nutrition, and outreach were common themes.
The rest of the classes continued to reinforce these themes, keeping them in the forefront of my thoughts and actions.
What was my role in living as a servant leader?
What was I doing to improve the lives of those less fortunate?
Why were the poor hungry when I had plenty?
What were the cultural factors that contributed to these disparities?
And most importantly what should I study for my thesis?
Poverty, nutrition, sharing, outreach… all themes woven within the curriculum.
One summer, we did not have a formal class! Oh the leisure loomed ahead reinforcing the goal of becoming a teacher, living the balance I chose to pursue.
And then the garden. Vacant land, hungry people. Oh, why not. I’ve always enjoyed a spot of gardening here and there.
When I went to ask people in local shelters or day places what they wanted in a garden their eyes lit up....they talked about fresh food and the way their grandparents used to work the farm, or provide for the family. Childhood memories, long forgotten sparked in their eyes. The Franklin Street Unity Garden was sprouting.
Later, as the garden grew, so did the participation and attention it received. Street homeless, or people "outside" took on "protecting" the garden as their own. They no longer shied away from presenting publicly there. Neighbors replanted cool weather plants and organizations donated their time or resources. The Tribune and Bethel published stories about the garden to help "grow" the inititiative.
In other words, diverse people came together to provide accessible, healthy food for all.
Now the Unity Gardens are well known in the community. There are over 10 in the area for this season, and at least as many planned for next year.
The Unity Gardens have become a gathering place for healthy food, meaningful service, education, cultural exchange, and eventually, paid employment. The seeds of sharing have been sown.
Just as the Unity Gardens motto is
We Are Growing More then Vegetables Here
At Bethel you are Growing more than Educated Graduates, you are growing servant leaders.