by Vanessa Bailey
Every gardener knows that each season, the soil must be restored. The same life-giving nutrients and essential minerals that give a “home grown tomato” that undeniably sweet and savory depth of flavor must be continually renewed and worked in, in order for the next crop to fully flourish. The hearts and minds of children are in many ways similar. While kids today can seemingly “run on empty” while they flit from soccer to SAT prep and everything in between, the truth is that those young souls require the same periodic “refresh” to truly reach their greatest heights.
You see we’ve been growing more than just carrots at Common Ground Community Garden in the backyard of Church of the Resurrection, at 2801 Morriss Road. For the past three years, we’ve grown our community as well. We’ve had the joy of working alongside moms and dads and kids from kindergarten through high school. We’ve grown a lot of food for those in need as well and there is an indescribable joy in seeing children, my own among them, grow so accustomed to hauling baskets and bushels of freshly picked green beans and peppers to the Salvation Army in Old Town. My children are experiencing firsthand how the work of their hands can result in real, and meaningful assistance to those who would otherwise go without. They understand that while they are small their lives have an ability to impact positive change in this world and that their contributions matter. My sons aren’t alone in this realization; indeed, we’ve hosted several student volunteer groups at Common Ground and they all walk away with the same awareness that they too have a powerful role to play in both their immediate community and the world at large.
Perhaps it’s because of my insider’s view on how impactful Flower Mound kids can be that my heart sinks each time a post bemoaning “the ungrateful millennials” appears on local social media pages. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good shopping cart debate as much as the next gal, but seeing post after post detailing the problems with the youth of today or comments from concerned parents questioning the ease and access to drugs in our high schools, can often lead to a skewed understanding of what is at the heart of the matter with kids in the “Flower Plex.”
To make myself as clear as possible: the problem is NOT that our kids are lazy, entitled, silver spoon-fed delinquents without the good sense to come in from the rain. Quite the opposite, our kids while incredibly privileged are also facing insurmountable expectations and scrutiny. Is teen access to drugs an issue for our town? Absolutely, but drug use is a symptom of a greater risk bubbling beneath the surface. Drug use often results from overscheduled, underheard, misconnected kids experimenting recreationally as a means to escape a world they can’t perceive they can change. I understand that. I was Flower Mound kid, I grew up here and I am well aware of the stressors and risks our kids face every day.
So, what’s a parent to do in the face of that storm? How do we better support our kids, engage them, hear them and help tie them into resources when they need more than what we know how to provide? How do we instill an organic love of learning, a heart that desires serving others and a confidence that equips our kids to question if the choices they are making are truly what’s best for them?
I’m a firm believer that most stumbling blocks in this life are a direct result of two things: boredom and brokenness. Both of these are issues of the heart and thankfully, our little town has an amazing grass roots collection of support services and volunteer opportunities to both aid and engage our kids. Whether your family needs resources for drug counseling, a dose of perspective or you simply desire a way to dig in deeper with your kids in a way that develops their ability to see themselves as capable and valuable members of society, the following local organizations provide plenty of opportunities to enjoy:
Keep Flower Mound Beautiful: KFMB serves to beautify our community and protect our environment. They provide monthly volunteer clean up days and host a yearly Trash Off and Spring Festival. You can find out more about this organization and ways to partner with them at their website: kfmb.org
Winning the Fight: WTF provides drug education, support, and resources to youth and family suffering from the disease of drug addiction. They offer a weekly support group for parents and youth and have a wealth of recovery resources on their website: wtf-winningthefight.org
Common Ground Community Garden: Common Ground Community Garden is a ministry of Church of the Resurrection and partner garden with the North Texas Food Bank. We are completely open to the public, no faith affiliation required and we host instructor led workshops on the first Saturday of every month from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. Learn more about volunteer opportunities and classes at our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/commongroundflomo
These organizations and resources are local and available to come alongside you and your family. Just recently, we hosted a student volunteer team from Marcus High School at Common Ground Community Garden. This group of young men came out despite near freezing weather to help design and install fences for our raised beds. They came to fulfill a school service project but they left with so much more than that! We invited the community to come out and help and can I just tell you, there are few things as rewarding as watching complete strangers join together for the sake of the greater good. I witnessed seasoned woodworkers show teenage boys how to use a drill driver for the first time and cheer them on when they struggled with it.
I worked alongside volunteers who came from as far as Dallas and shared that they had depended on food pantry relief growing up and wanted to give back by growing fresh food for those who needed help now. I joked with Kennan, a middle school Boy Scout who had spent the morning collecting canned food and brought a cabbage to plant in the garden. I watched as Alec, the student team leader rallied his troops and kept them on task. Another young man shared that he had an ROTC event later that evening and was planning on spending all day Sunday doing homework. We spent 7 hours in the garden together, joking about tide pods and trying to stay warm and in that space, relationships were made and friendships were fortified. And by the end of it all, I even got to overhear an exhausted 15-year-old confide to his friend that, “this was actually a lot of fun” as the last rail was raised.
Vanessa Bailey is the creator of the Common Ground Community Garden, a ministry of the Church of the Resurrection in Flower Mound.