Last week Eryka and I had a chance to make deliveries in Garfield together. It was a particularly humid and sticky day, but we marched up the hill with a bag full of salad greens and positive attitudes. It was on this delivery that I noticed a change in how we were being received by various members of the community. Instead of suspicious looks that left us feeling out of place, we were actually beginning to be recognized by people we had had conversations with in the past. With this feeling, I recognized a critical shift taking place with this project. We were no longer outsiders, but were beginning to be woven into the already developed community of Garfield. Talk about encouraging!
Projects like Latham Street that focus on community outreach often lack several key points to becoming successful and being well received, and though some of these points may seem obvious, it takes a certain amount of patience and awareness of the present moment for it to work. First of all, consistency. The more that we can be present within a space, and a small space at that, trust begins to be built. Not necessarily a deep trust, but just a growing assumption that we are around, we are here, and we're going to grow food down the street regardless. Secondly, it is crucial to remember the element of time. Time doesn't slow down, it doesn't speed up, so neither should we. Taking it one step at a time, being present to every conversation and paying attention to the little details is what really gives a clearer message to the people around. Because this is the beginning phases of a bigger project, it isn't about the amount of salad we give, the aesthetic of our garden, or the movement and bustle of events that take place on site. It's about meeting the community wherever the community is, and that means matching the pace of their lifestyle, understanding their day-to-day lives, and finding connection between the two. In other words, it isn't a one way street--it's both giving and taking, like any relationship should be.
I had a very special moment with Eryka last week, where I was reminded of how the true concept of community cannot be a one way street. We were talking about the project, and I was asking for more of her perspective on what she's seen going on around her. The beginning of our conversation was slightly formal and rigid, but as we continued talking I began to feel that this younger member of the community had a beautiful vision of what her dreams were for the future. More importantly than the future, what was happening in her present world. Where she had not had too many friends in her immediate surroundings, she now had several because of Latham Street. As we chatted more, it dawned on me that it was not only our team that had had an impact on her, but her who had had an impact on us. Every day I spend with Eryka I feel encouraged by her perseverance, determination, and bravery to try such new things at such a young age.
So if this is just the beginning of the relationships that emerge through Latham Street, what might the future hold?