There is advice abound that suggests adults should remain childlike in our interpretation of the world. To grasp the wonder of possibility, approach things curiously, and let our imaginations run wild without the weight of worry. Play and curiosity are two of the values I hold front and center in designing my life. Given that I learn by doing - through active participation and exposure - I spend time with children each week. Doing so is a constant reminder to lead my life with play and curiosity in mind and supports a commitment I have made for myself to be of service to others.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve served others by volunteering time to organizations in my community whose mission is aligned with my values. My time has contributed to securing resources for battered women by being the recipient of calls on a crisis line, supporting the slow food movement through various roles, and reducing recidivism rates for inmates by mentoring women in jail. Each opportunity of service is met with an equal opportunity to step outside of my own life and learn from the perspective of others.
For the last two years, I have spent time each week alongside middle school students as a garden volunteer with the Edible Schoolyard. Each student at MLK Middle School in Berkeley gets exposure to real food - growing it and preparing it - as part of the school's program. Outside of learning about wholesome food outside of packages - the students get the opportunity to be physical, using their bodies and shaking up the monotony of sitting all day.
This week, our 6th-grade class completed their fall rotation in the garden. The staff held a closing ceremony for the students to celebrate the transition away from fall and into winter. We sat together, nestled in the circular rotunda in the middle of the garden, drinking fresh pressed apple cider that the kids had created during class, waiting for the sun to warm the day. The head garden teacher asked the students to reflect on their season in the garden.
“I want you to think for a moment about one fellow student that has impacted your time in the garden. Maybe someone who made your time out here easier or more fun. I know you may want to thank the staff or volunteers, but for now, I want you to think of your classmates. When and if you have someone in mind, raise your thumb.”
One by one, the lead garden teacher called on students whose thumbs were raised. For 5 minutes, the students appreciated one another. For creating laughter, for showing one another how to use different tools, for larger kids giving smaller kids wheelbarrow rides in the winding paths of the garden, for teaching one another how to pick up the chickens that run free in the gardens.
“I appreciate ______ for ______.”
The appreciation was contagious. The students recognized by a peer visibility lit up - sitting taller and smiling with pride. The recognition was a gesture in saying - you were noticed and you impacted me. More students wanted the power to make others smile and were inspired to speak up, remembering who had impacted their r time in the garden and to appreciate one another for making their experience full.
In 5 minutes, the garden staff created a culture of appreciation.
Every day I hear my clients say that they want to understand the impact of their efforts. People are hungry to know why their contribution counts.
This week, think about someone who has had an impact on your life and tell them about the impact they have had on you. Doing so is contagious.