In Chicago at the far South Side neighborhood of Auburn Gresham, there has been a major effort to revitalize the area by the work of involved community leaders. When I was invited out to the Morganway
indeed, the garden has faced quite a few challenges. It is located in middle of a city area with unattractive views. Yet a few local volunteers have done everything they can to build this little green respite in middle of a downtrodden region of Chicago.
Two leaders for the garden are Pamela McCarroll and Juanita Love – you can see them in the top photo standing in front of a row of gorgeous okra grown at the garden. Their dream is to inspire the community by making the garden a refuge in a sea of black top. The garden was started 15 years ago, fell into disrepair, and when Juanita Love moved back in to the community 7 years ago, she helped work with the team to revitalize it. Juanita says, “It’s about people helping people.”
Juanita Love captured me with her charm and beauty. She is 71 years young, has a perpetual twinkle in her eye, and is more fit than most women half her age. She helps plant and grow okra, tomatoes, broccoli, squash, and watermelon. Mostly she spreads joy. I love Juanita because she represents strength. In middle of challenges and adversity, she has taken the bull by the horns and made a difference for her neighborhood.
We climbed into GMC trucks and drove to the local home and garden store to pick up plants and garden equipment to help update the garden with. On the drive, Juanita told me all about the garden and how NeighborSpace helped build a watering system, brought in soil, and added benches. They needed so much more and she was very excited to go get the supplies today.
Ever have one of those special moments in life where you are standing in middle of chaos and you feel tears prickling your eyes because you are so grateful for all that you have? Yesterday I had one of those moments standing in middle of a store with Juanita and Pam.
Like kids in a candy store, Pamela and Juanita ran around the garden center getting the things they needed for the garden. We were all standing at the check out area when Pamela covers her face and says, “I’m gonna cry, Miss Love, I’m gonna cry.”
Juanita and I look up at Pam and Juanita says, “What’s the matter?”
“Seeing all of this,” Pam says pointing to the new equipment for the garden, “well… it makes my heart runneth over!” Tears spill out of the corner of her eye and I lean over and hug her. There are people walking all around us shopping and I just keep hugging her. My eyes sting and fill up with tears and think about all the things in my life that mean so much to me. I feel like Pam does; grateful.
A garden is so much more than a garden. It is a balm for the soul and connects a neighborhood together. Seeing the beauty and happiness that a few plants can create is enough for me to believe that we should be filling our urban communities to overflowing with more gardens. More happiness. More passion. More GOOD. Ask Juanita Love (below photo) and I am sure she will agree.