A Precious Garden

We have had two weekend mission visits for the fall so far. These weekends are the first time I got to experience the full programming and schedule set up by The Center.

The excitement and nervousness of Friday night moved into the sheer excitement of getting to spend time with Precious, the patient advocate coordinator at The Glenwood Life Center in Woodbourne-McCabe. Olivia (Liv) and I got to meet Precious during our orientation. Once you meet Precious you will never forget her or lose her in a crowd. Whatever anxiety I might have been feeling about my new role, I knew once I got a hug from Precious and began listening to her stories, whatever I was feeling would fade.

The group arrived on site and after filling some space with devotion, instructions, and some background information on the work of the Glenwood Life Center as a Methadone Clinic, Precious arrived. The Glenwood Life Center is a community. It helps those who have become addicted to opioids. There are resources, counselors, art projects, and group meetings to help patients work their way out of addiction and off methadone treatment. Precious is not just the patient advocate, but a patient herself. She is very open and forthcoming about her story and the process she has gone through to get to where she is today. Plus, Precious always comes with smiles and hugs.

To work inside this garden is very special. Precious began the garden in 2013 when she started volunteering as the patient advocate coordinator. Across from the clinic is an open space where they built a small playground for the neighborhood. Initially a small plot of the land was used to build a garden to promote healing for the patients, a backdrop to the playground, and give healthy food options to the kids and their families who live in the neighborhood. The garden has since turned into much much more. When you enter the garden you feel as though you are in a completely different setting. The chill in the air and the mist of light rain does not matter as you begin to dig, pull, turn over soil within the garden beds. The plants are her babies. Each one a sign of hope and optimism. Marigolds were the first plant she planted in the garden that has recently helped feed 1,374 people with produce donated to the local farmer’s market and food pantry. To watch Precious and volunteers work in the garden is experience a small taste of the impact the garden holds for this community. Though it is hard to get patients from the Glenwood Life Center to assist in the garden, for fear of sweating out their medication, it does not deter Precious who is now a master gardener, from working and planning another expansion project.

A part of my task as a Fellow is to work alongside her and I am excited to see her visions come to light. For the past two weekends we have cleaned and prepped the beds for winter growing. Precious has a special touch and way with planting seeds that produce in the unlikeliest of conditions. This is literal and figurative. Precious has already planted a seed within me about understanding the difference between the addiction and the treatment of opioid abuse. She has become a friend and protective older sister, making me pinky promise that I would call her if I ever needed assistance getting around the city. She makes it comfortable to enter and interact with the staff and patients within the Glenwood community. I never would have thought that I would say that working at an addiction treatment clinic would be a highlight of my work experience, but everyone I have met there is friendly, open-minded, and knows who Precious is! She is very much a celebrity figure, but honest in the way that she cares. I have lost track of her because she stops and gives 100% of her attention to someone who needs to talk to her. The garden and Precious are reminders to slow down and let the unexpected happen. You’d be surprised about what grows when you do.