We were surprised to see all of the juveniles enter the garden for our day’s activities. We were under the impression that only Thursdays would include all the participants of the program. Today was Sunday; I had expected one or two kids, so when seven came out an excitement rushed through my body. Most of them I had not met. My team members, Leah and Rachael, quickly separated the youth into groups without missing a heart beat, and tasked them with seeding, weeding, and adding compost to the soil beds.
A small group of two ventured out to the orchard and became bent on digging out and removing a small, broken tree. The task appeared really enjoyable so I joined them.
As the least experienced gardener of all involved, and yet the only male facilitator of the program, the dance between leading and allowing the children to lead is always insightful. Where I can provide guidance, discipline, and structure; I do, and when prompted, I submit to their passionate dictations.
I think the kids like me. I try to infuse wisdom, inspiration, and life lessons whenever possible without patronizing them or treating them as anything less than adults. Humor helps. I try to remain authentic and treat them with respect. I don’t downplay the behavior or attitudes that got them incarcerated but I also don’t let them lose sight of their worthiness. I hope that they have an example of a young male who doesn’t need to resort to unethical behavior to have identity and purpose.