First of all, creating a community garden is a good idea no matter who is doing it. Projects like that are going on all over with much success and having other good things spawning from it. The more people getting involved the greater the possibilities and opportunity for it to grow. Likewise with a community composting initiative that should be done year round. Other such projects use five gallon buckets given out to participating households that are collected and exchanged for clean ones on a weekly basis. Those buckets are placed on front porches, along the sides of houses or by back doors – easy access for residents to dump scraps and for volunteers to collect. What if we built wooden boxes out of repurposed wood for the buckets to be stored in? A simple design with a swinging door and space on top for maybe a plant. The box could be painted or decorated with a family name, street address or even a favorite sports team logo – the choice of the resident and an incentive to participate. Those boxes could be built and painted year round by volunteers and wouldn’t it be good to see more and more of them in neighborhoods? How about having an “Adopt A Garden” project where we’d bring people together to grow small gardens in back yards? Connect volunteers with residents who’d work together on their property, the produce going to the residents or maybe some to be donated. Maybe just one or two raised bed gardens – again using repurposed wood if possible. The volunteers would be trained and equipped ( the compost supplied ) by the center. Just people coming together for a greater good, not only for each other but for as many more as possible.
Do not just listen to me – what do YOU think? What else could be done at a place like that with the right kind of people? Teaching others, specially our youths, the benefits of not only working and physical activities but working together in community projects. Learning about healthy living, horticulture, conservation, recycling and who knows what all else.
Now, the idea of getting people like me involved, let me start with where I am. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of inmates in Ohio’s prisons who are eligible for a parole right now except the current parole board does not deem them suitable for a parole. I have to be honest – as I sit here and say that I personally know of many who are more than suitable for release I also know of several who really are “the worst of the worst” and even I would be skeptical of them being paroled. But I also should say this – the parole board and the powers that be in Ohio’s D.R.C. aren’t even bothering to discern the best from the worst. They simply aren’t trying to get to know us or understand us as people. I don’t have the answer as to how they’d figure that out but I do know there are quite a few in here who have served their sentences and are more than ready to be given the chance to prove themselves.
It isn’t easy to look into a place like a prison to try and find any good or a purposeful idea but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. And in desperate times of mass incarceration, drug abuse epidemics and people becoming more and more divided almost every single day maybe looking into unexpected places instead of ignoring them is what’s needed. Why not look directly at them and try to listen and understand them instead of shunning and simply punishing them? I know what I’m talking about when it comes to my life and my experiences, even in the worst of it there were lessons. I came from a low income single parent family raised with two other siblings. I started using drugs when I was eleven years old, arrested for a felony at age sixteen and admitted to a drug rehab center at the same age. At even younger ages I was exposed to drug use and alcoholism, violence and domestic abuse, criminal activities and people with mental health issues. I dropped out of high school at seventeen, continued to use drugs and alcohol and committed more crimes until being arrested for aggravated burglary and aggravated murder just after turning twenty one. A textbook roadmap to prison. Now, take a look around your city and others around you. You know where the hospitals and jails are, the rehab centers, bars and liquor stores, the poor neighborhoods and where to find drug dealers. You hear the sirens and sometimes the gunfire and screams but if you can’t do anything about it you have no choice except to ignore it. You don’t want to know about poverty, hunger, broken families and crime rates. You look away from overdoses and murders, you don’t want to hear the truth about violence and abuse and all of the innocent victims not to mention the cost in tax dollars. There are no easy answers and where can you even start?
All I know about are my own experiences, the bad choices I made were my own decisions. I knew right from wrong but I just didn’t know enough – I didn’t really know me. Looking back I seemed more disconnected and alone than I ever felt connected to people or on the right path. I can pinpoint exact moments as a kid, teenager or even as a young adult where I was more lost than anything and could’ve really benefitted from being around the right people. So how do you find a way to connect with those people out there in your cities and neighborhoods? The ones surrounded by all of the evils and know no other way. How do you reach into their lives to plant a seed of a better life? To nurture it but let them find their own roots and light to grow towards with meaning and purpose. What kind of idea’s can you come up with to bring people closer to their own hearts and find peace in their minds? The end?
Categories: Mark Gildemeister