It’s hard to imagine that someone could form such a strong attachment to a piece of land – not a house or playground but a piece of earth just waiting to be cultivated. Today, I said good-bye to my allotment*. I disassembled my brassica** cages, cleared out the rubbish, and packed into my car, all the little bits and bobs*** I had left there for convenience.
And as I walked away for the last time from Love’s Delight (the name of the allotments), I cried.
You see, my allotment was more than a vegetable patch. In the darkest hours of the past two years, (and there were a number of them), the allotment was my sanctuary. It was the place I met God and cultivated peace after turbulent news, an unsettling encounter, or a rough day at work. It’s where I could be alone with my thoughts, get my hands dirty and do the hard work of processing life. It’s where I prayed.
I also met God through the people I would meet while at the allotment. Over the past two years I have been able to cultivate relationships with my allotment neighbours and the people who would regularly walk by. I think of one particular woman with whom I grew quite close. She has three allotments, which means that she is there a lot: every day for hours. To put this into perspective, I have half an allotment. Jane is a kindred spirit and I am going to miss our chats. She would always be more than willing to give me tips on gardening, but we also talked about God, Church, and our heart for this little village.
For Jane, the allotment is more than a sanctuary where she prays, it is also her ministry. She grows more food than her family could ever eat so she gives it away. She contributes to community meals and gives fruit and veg to those who need it. She also talks to the people who walk by and there are many. Jane always has time for a conversation and the allotment is actually where she has met many of the people whom she helps. She has told me endless stories about her powerful ministry through the allotment: not in a puffed up way, she would never phrase it as I have, but as we lamented together about how to do ministry in an affluent and somewhat complacent culture.
My heart broke when she told me about how challenging it was to minister at the youth centre, where teenagers would hurl racist insults at her, telling her to go back to where she came from, even before the time of COVID and #stopasianhate and we have wept together as she has told me about her small group that she nudges faithfully each week to dig a little deeper and see the world the way God sees it.
Jane is a light in this village – a radiant splash of colour in the malaise of grey. In cultivating the land, she cultivates community, hope and love. I may not have an allotment anymore, but I pray that I will find ways to cultivate these things wherever I might find myself and in every community that I am a part of.
*a piece of ground a person rents to grow vegetables
**cabbage, kale and swedes
***a lovely little phrase of the British to mean miscellaneous items
The name of my friend has been changed for privacy.
This post is part of the 2021 Writing Challenge. This challenge is open to anyone and involves writing on one word a week for 52 weeks. Write for yourself or write for others but either way, please feel free to share by posting a link in the comments (if you’re posting on this week’s word) or post on social using the #2021writingchallenge and tagging me on Twitter or Instagram, or posting on my FB page so I can repost. Happy Writing!