Thanksgiving always gives us the opportunity to think about all the gifts in your life; family, friends, health, community you live in and so on.
While working in the perennial gardens at Paulik Park, up to our elbows in dirt, pulling twigs out of our hair and fighting with morning glory, a young family approached us.
Plenty of questions were asked trying to understand what we were doing. The young family then asked us if they could help us out and do some work in the garden. They explained that their english was minimal (way better than our Mandarin!) and they had no gardening experience.
If you could have heard the reply of delight echoed from us, you would have wondered who got hurt. It is hard for us to attract volunteers to help us in the gardens. After a very enthusiastic “yes”, we told them that they did not need any experience. We would teach them. We also advised them to dress to get dirty and talked about safety in the garden - gardening gloves, good sturdy shoes.
They have now been with us for four gardening days. This little family, Kathy, Peter and daughter Emma, immigrated from Beijing only 3 months ago! They looked at the Paulik Park gardening opportunity as a way to learn the culture of their new country, improve their english skills and as an added benefit, learn to garden. Even their 12-year-old daughter is gleefully dividing, transplanting, weeding and planting bulbs.
In Beijing, most of their time was spent in offices and with little land available, there was no opportunity to learn to garden.
Something wonderful has happened with the addition of this little family! A gift has been given not only to us, the regular volunteers, but also to our regular visitors to the park.
Richmond Garden Club and other community volunteers have been working and maintaining the 30 perennial garden beds in the park since 2008. The gardens were designed by the original homeowner, Mrs Paulik, as early as the 1930’s.
Our work has attracted many of the local folks from the community who wander through the park absolutely in love with the flowers, the wildlife and the massive forest. The challenge has been communication. We are always happy to see our visitors and because of language, not much else can be said past “hello”.
Four gardening days in with our new Mandarin-speaking family, we have had hugs and conversations with our long time visitors who have been dying to talk us as much as we have been dying to talk to them.
Our new volunteer Kathy, stops her gardening and takes the time to talk about (in Mandarin) what we are doing and the history of this amazing park. Now our visitors come up for a hug. They have shared their gratitude of the work we are doing and how kind we volunteers are to them. They are so proud of their park and are happy that we take care of it.
So I am thankful for our multicultural community and for the simple ways we can find to connect with other - in the garden!
Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club.