The smallest, and some of the most amazing volunteers who aided in the construction of the community garden were the sweet-spirited children who came to lend a hand. Some staff and volunteers have admitted that they did not expect much from the children who came wrapped in layers upon layers of cold-gear, but each was happily surprised by the impact of this volunteer group.
While adults often look to a greater cause that their service fulfills, these children did not require more motivation past the nudges of their parents. In the photo accompanying this post, brothers Thomas Stewart and Grant Stewart stand side by side holding brushes in their icy hands as they brighten the garden with beautiful flower pots. Behind them, Addy Carlisle’s pink hatted head peaks out and her father leans down to engage with her as they take part in this volunteer work together.
While these children were initially directed by their parents, the work quickly became their own experience, created and shaped by themselves and their individual work. After interviewing these children, I developed a new appreciation for the act of serving others with the simple goal of making others happy.
As I discussed the work each child performed at the Kiwanis Park community garden, their answers were simple, but each targeted a value of service past feeling good or even uplifting the community.
Addison Carlisle, daughter of Lauren and Jason Carlisle, was one of the youngest volunteers at the garden. When asked what the best way is to help people, she responded, “To play with them and making them flowers.” This was followed with questions about how the garden could help people. Addison informed her mother, “It gives them food and acorns. And it’s helpful because it grows seeds and plants and some vegetables and a lot of things, and corn.”
These answers are not afraid of inaccuracy, they are based on personal perceptions of people and gardens in a developing mind. This is one reason why they are the best answers! It isn’t about details, accuracy of understanding the work, or reasoning before service. While these elements of detail and formation are necessary for organizations such as Feeding Laramie Valley, the message of love and care at the root of service is fundamental as well.
Finally, when asked how Addy herself was helping people by making them a garden, she responded, “[The people] were happy because we’re making food.” The specific food doesn’t matter, nor does the means of distribution, the reporting to measure the success of the garden, and so on. The only element that mattered to Addy was making people happy. While other elements allow such service and work to come to fruition, all service begins with the foundation of making people happy.
The responses of the other children were just as profound and simple. Like Addy, Thomas’ answers were creative and pointed towards the happiness resulting from service. On the other hand, responses from 8-year-old Grant showed both the simple aspects of service, but also illustrated his deeper understanding of gardens.
Interviewer: “What do you think is the best way to help people?”
Thomas: “To give them toys to make kids happy.”
Grant: “By feeding them and helping them.”
Interviewer: “How can a garden help people?”
Thomas: “People will have fun working in the garden.”
Grant: “It will help feed people.”
Interviewer: “How did you help people by making them a garden?”
Thomas: “Maybe they can eat yummy watermelon.”
Grant: “We helped people find a way to get fresh food.”
Thomas’ answers focused on love and aid—those key elements of service which we admire most in our children and each other. However, Grant found more realistic applications of the garden as a healthy, sustainable food source that would reach a fundamental human need and his understanding heightened his views of service as an effective tool for creating and sharing both food and happiness.
While each of these children remind us of the simple nature of service and volunteer work, Grant’s final statement gives power to that work. “We helped people find a way to get fresh food.” Service should be as simple as making people happy, but it is also much more. There are people without a means of fresh food and that is why the service provided at Kiwanis Park has been so incredible, even in its simplest, and smallest forms. Here is a final thank you to our devoted volunteers. We could not have done it without each and every one of you.