#67: The Garden

October 1st, 2012

“But at least I picked enough green beans for the homeless shelter,” Jill told me at the end of one of the most angering conversations I ever had.

The Altgeld-Sawyer Corner Farm has been vandalized

It’s the usual story. Teenagers, ones angry, bored and strong enough to toss the tables, rip up the kiosk, throw around the bits of log people working at the community garden sit on when they need a breather. The neighbors spotted them, called the cops (told the cops an assault was going on so they would show up quickly, rumor has it).

The neighbors didn’t have the number for Margaret the organizer. She had to find out when she and Jill showed up on Sunday to put in a few extra hours.

Jill and her husband told us about this at the gang’s weekly bull session at the Bullhead. Several of us had been volunteering there anywhere from months to, in my case, weeks. You invest what time you want to put in. I’ve just been taking my composting and helping water on Wednesdays. Jill has spent Wednesdays, Mondays, weekends and random days, hours and minutes as available making something beautiful.

“People are douchebags,” Jill said as the waiter asked if the group wanted more shots and tacos.

Jill told this story with a weird look in her eye, like the teenagers and vandalism were the preface, the “I told you that story so I could tell you this one.”

She was right. Here’s where it gets good.

“The neighbors put it back together,” she said, with a gleam in her eye.

The kiosk is still in shambles, but the guy who made it the first time volunteered to do it again.

“We’re going to put the base in concrete this time,” she said, same gleam. *

The neighbors righted the heavy wooden table. They set up the chairs and the bits of log again, tidied the torn-up sod and plants. Families did it, Jill said. They brought their kids and brought the garden back.

As for the vandals, well, they got away. Not all parts of a happy ending are happy. But they know now that people will call the cops, which is all I can hope they learned.

A neighbor named Susan had to field her children’s questions about this, Jill said. I would not want to be the one to have to answer a child asking why anyone would do this, but Susan seemed to handle it with aplomb, at least in Jill’s re-telling.

“Susan said, ‘Well, a lot of people don’t have anything but anger inside. And when they see something beautiful, it reminds them that they don’t have any beauty in themselves, so that brings out the anger because it reminds them of what they don’t have.’”

Cool quote to end with, but the story’s not over yet. You can help the Altgeld-Sawyer Corner Farm.

The Altgeld-Sawyer Corner Farm is involved in one of those online voting things where the winner gets much-needed funding to work on their project. They’re currently in the lead, but have an (undoubtedly lovely and wonderful) mural team nipping at their heels in the voting.

Vote for them. Vote for them now.

It’s just a click of a button, but it will help bring a patch of beauty to a community that really needs it. And you can see from this story how much the community loves it. And how much the garden needs any help it can get.

Vote for the Altgeld-Sawyer Corner Farm.

You’ll be glad you did.

* No concrete base. This was Jill saying what would serve the vandals right. I mistook it for a plan. My mistake.

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You are currently reading #67: The Garden by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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