Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Search for Meaning

In Food class at June Jordan, we're starting to talk about cultural foods and the marketing of foods. I think lots of us have an instinctive disgust for processed foods, fast foods and the like, because those foods are so empty of meaning. We are being "sold" these foods, with TV ads, media images and celebrities. On the other hand, the rice and beans that grandma makes just give you that warm, fuzzy feeling of home. It's about foods with MEANING, that deep, inside, gut meaning that you just FEEL.

It's the same thing in my Fundraising class, where I'm a student. Think about this question for a minute: what is the most meaningful gift you've ever given someone? How did you feel? If you're like me, it almost makes you want to cry thinking about it. It felt so good. On a deeper level, authentic. It's not something you can teach someone, or explain, but if you get it, you know what meaningful giving feels like. It's so different from the exchange of buying and selling.

The search for meaning is easy in the garden. I mean, who can resist a young person discovering beans inside a pod, or worms in the ground? Every story in the garden has meaning. But the rest of the time, when we're not in the garden, it's harder.

I went to a meeting today, a group of garden education leaders who are working to promote garden-based education and elevate it to higher visibility and support. We talked and talked about how to take school gardens to the top, with district support, state support, legislation, etc. It seemed like such a long battle for a newbie like me.

Today, Delaine Eastin was in attendance (originator of California's "A Garden in Every School"). She spoke with experience of all the fights to fight and all the ways to take action and change the system. It sounded like a long, weary struggle. But when asked how she found meaning as state superintendent of schools, in the face of all these battles, Delaine said she always spent one day a week visiting a school. There, she'd find the one kid who runs up and gives you a hug. And tough as she is, it brought tears to her eyes. That's meaning. It's what gives us hope and keeps us real. And look how far school gardens have come!