A volunteering story by: Bianca Leslie – please submit anonymously

I volunteered for the kilburn greenhouse through chicago cares. Upon arrival I was a little bit clueless on what to expect because I had never done any type of gardening activities in my life. Unless you count pulling up flowers out of my mother’s or my grandmother’s garden. I remember the heat that day. Being in the sun was definitely something I was not looking forward to. I walked up to the group and introduced myself. We were a small group of about four or five. The volunteer leader was extremely nice. She expressed how much enjoyment she gets from gardening. The greenhouse had an inside and an outside area. The inside did not consist of much plants at that time, but the outside had gardens owned by different individuals. The area also had a peach tree, cherries, apples, mint, tomatoes blackberries and much more. I had no idea that this beautiful place was not too far from where I lived. There was a table by the entrance to the inside of the greenhouse with gardening tools and gloves. There was also a foam cushion for sitting. We started by taking up weeds from the pathways of the garden. Sitting on my foam cushion with my back to the sun, time passed and the moments began to become more and more peaceful. It seemed as though the others felt the same because through small chit chat there were long moments of comfortable silence with the sweet whisper of nature in the background. Soon we were joined by two women with children and a radio began to play some soft tunes. We ended with some snacks from the garden and went home to our showers.

The Inspiration

I volunteered for this amazing greenhouse because I wanted to try something that I have never tried before. I wanted to get myself out of my usual comfort zone and try something new. I usually do not like to get my hands dirty but the beauty of everything made it all worth it. It was also nice to contribute and help maintain the beauty of the greenhouse. A lot of people come for relaxation and for the delicious fruits and vegetables of course. It is nice to know that other people will be admiring a garden that you helped to get to where it is. When you stop and take a step back to look at your work, you really see just how far you have come. It is not always good to stay in your comfort zone. Making yourself uncomfortable can be a small key to courage for more important things. I was able to meet new people and my eyes were opened to another lifestyle. There was a young woman who told me that this garden was where she worked everyday. That I definitely do not think I am ready for so I completely admire what she does to make this garden as beautiful as it is. The people there inspired me to learn more about plant life. We often look past the process of what it takes for things to be here on earth with us. Without these things we would cease to exist. Take a step back and appreciate the beauty that nature gives. You can find a lot of inspiration in the art of the world.

The Aha! moment…

From this experience I learned that gardening can be one of the most relaxing things. I learned a little about how to properly care for a garden and maintain your plants. I have learned some weeds are extremely prickly so definitely watch out for that. Gardening is also really good exercise. Most importantly I believe that discovering this greenhouse is what I am most happy to have learned about. I learned that this greenhouse offers free yoga on Saturday. How amazing is that!? What better place to enjoy the relaxation of yoga than a beautiful garden? Well, I can not think of any one single place that can top that. It is amazing how one little three hour experience can change your outlook on certain things. I never thought getting my hands dirty would turn into such a joyful experience. I hope to bring along some curious and even some not so curious minds on my next greenhouse adventure. Hopefully they can take even more from the experience than I was able to, and then they can share their experience and knowledge with more great people. I also learned to make sure I remember to wear bug spray. The mosquitoes are not at all nice. Ha! Not that I have ever come across a merciful mosquito!

To summarize it in three words…

  • Relaxing, calm, escape

Why should you do this

Now I challenge you all who have never spent some time at a greenhouse to take a trip to one near where you live and see what it has to offer. Even if you only stay for five minutes it all might be worth it. You never know you may never want to leave! Go breath in the air and the mesmerizing scent of the flowers and plants. Enjoy a little that nature has to offer.

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