The Comfort of Home
Although I watched the snow fall for most of the day yesterday, spring is definitely on its way. The birds are singing enthusiastically, in a way I haven’t heard them for months and the weatherman claims it will near 70 degrees in just a few days. I like so many others look forward to getting outside and putting my hands in the soil once more. Soon it will be time to garden again.
My daughter works with an organization that assists refugees: people seeking asylum, survivors of traumatic events and other immigrants from countries around the globe. And while she implements studies, tracks results, helps with transportation and procures translators, what warms my heart, especially, is her work with the community garden they’ve established for these families.
They come from at least 32 different countries, all trying to navigate an intricate system of new places, language, customs, systems and strange foods. It’s stressful and scary for them, but given the fact that a large portion of these re-settlers come from farming backgrounds, the garden is a familiar and safe place; a place where they can feel competent and in charge.
Here, they have a chance to connect and feel a part of this new land as well as hear others speaking a familiar language or just to make new friends. The banter, while working the soil, can be such a soothing balm. They share experiences and learn about one another, slowly beginning to make a life, a new “normal” in this alien place.
There’s also the potential for people to make a little bit of income along the way and learn some really important skills by selling to some of the local restaurants and participating in a weekly farmers market.
Just as importantly, they are supporting their own nutrition. The food they grow allows for a wider, more healthful variety in their diets.Food stamps may buy quite a few boxes of dried macaroni and powdered cheese, but probably not too many healthy, nutritious items like fresh fruits and vegetables – much less some of the more “exotic” items that these families are familiar with. In their community garden, they can grow produce for the traditional dishes of their homelands.
I imagine myself in a strange, new place where everything is foreign. I don’t know anyone or understand the language. What a comfort it would be to have a few of those dishes from home – some scent or taste of the familiar. It’s why I always put together monthly care packages for my daughters when they were away at college and why I baked two loaves of my pumpkin bread for them each time they came home – one to enjoy at the table where they grew up, in their cozy kitchen at home, and one to take with them when they had to leave again, bringing a little piece of home with them.
Food can do so many things. It builds bridges – both between people and places: home and to wherever the winding road of life has brought you. It provides memories, healing and comfort and it’s another language with which to say “I love you”. Food is everything.