As we come to the end of an extraordinary year, I reflect on how so many of us have been forced to become more aware of the world around us. We are reminded, daily, of challenges facing our environment, our society, our neighbors, ourselves. We have seen the very best and worst of humanity shown as we wrestle to find our place in our world.
I am beyond thankful to have had the opportunity to learn, grow, and serve in such an incredible community beside our dedicated staff and interns; our ever growing board--with six new members over the past twelve months; and our beautiful armies of supporters and volunteers.
The genuine concern they show one another overflows to the community.
I have spent this summer reflecting on our nation and world. I would be lying if I said I did not worry for future generations, but I would also be remiss if I did not say I draw inspiration from both past and present: I consider the legacy of the Powhatan and Patawomeck tribes that once grew, hunted, argued, played, laughed, and cried on this ground around the Rappahannock. I consider those that fled persecution and insecurity in the Old World, hoping to find a better home here. Those who hoped and fought for justice, established; domestic Tranquility, insured; common defense, provided for; general Welfare, promoted; and the Blessing of Liberty, secured.
Our garden has become not just a place where we strive to meet the physical needs of our community, but a place of reconciliation. It has been a place for healing as partner organizations have hosted events for survivors of domestic and sexual violence to find solidarity. It has been a place of comfort, with many of our housing transient and homeless community finding peace amongst the flowers and shade of the garden during our hottest days.
This has been an incredibly challenging year for the whole world, but also for the Downtown Greens family specifically--rocked with personal health issues, deaths in families and communities, economic precarity, raising children in the age of COVID, and a whole host of other large and small concerns. Our two main fundraisers, the Fork It Over Festival and Down Home Ball, were cancelled. We were unable to host our Youth Farm Program, Youth Garden Club, or Garden Sprouts--hundreds of our kiddos that we were only able to see in passing, if at all.
As I think about these challenges, I think about the words we used to describe this land--a Common Wealth in a More Perfect Union--and I think about Downtown Greens’ role in making this community a more perfect place to live in imperfect conditions. I think about how we can honor the forgotten words and legacy of the first inhabitants and caretakers of this land.
This all may seem lofty for a community garden on a few acres of land, but I think now is the time to imagine ourselves greatly. To learn the lessons of single seeds, that contain whole forests. To learn from so many of our kids that are the first in their family to go to college or trade schools or have become volunteers and givers in their communities. To look to the best parts of our past and present to build a better future.
Be well, be healthy, and thank you for a wonderful year!
By Brad Smith, President of the Board of Directors at Downtown Greens
You can find this and more in the latest Front Porch Article!