Sowing seeds in the community / by Jenna Neulander

This week I sowed my first seed. I watched as Jesse, the only veteran Yahel volunteer of the group, showed me how deep to plant the seed, how to cover it, how the soil must be damp before the seed is put in place, and how the soil must again be watered after the seed is in and covered. Together, we planted around 40 seeds. Seeds that he specifically chose based on the season we are approaching and how well that species of plant will survive. Some day soon I hope I will be able to make choices like that, choices based on need and availability and knowledge. It’s the age-old cliche to compare our time here so far to a seedling slowly and steadily growing in soil, but here we go.

When I was finished with my first lesson in planting I of course wanted some sort of immediate reward. The soil looked the same as it did without the seed in it. There was no instantaneous sprout or even a hit of green mixed with the dark brown color of the damp soil. So, I walked away knowing that for the day I had done my part. From now on I will water it multiple times a day and still I will not see the seed progress until it is ready. When it is time the seed may sprout, pushing really hard toward the surface and emerge. The sprout won’t be a completely different entity from what it came from, it will still have its “seed-like properties,” but it will have matured. Or, it may not. Some seeds might not sprout because it was not their time. Maybe I will over water a very sensitive seed or under water a hyper active one. I will try my very best, but it is hard to know what exactly is going on beneath the surface. This idea is one that we, “Yahelnikim”, have been exploring our first few weeks here.

We are learning independently and collaboratively every day. So far, we are still only learning how far to dig in the dirt. We can begin to start mapping out where we want to plant our seeds and of what variety – and some of us have possibly already begun to sow. But, in many instances we are still getting to know our “seedlings” whether it be in the schools, in an Ethiopian home, during a community ceremony, in a group lecture, or perhaps during our weekly individual check-ins. Every place and person we turn to are our “seedlings” and just as importantly, we are theirs. The community in Gedera, the neighborhood of Shapira, Friends by Nature, the Garin, Yahel, the high school, the middle school, the community garden, they all provide us with the richest soil but like many things, our connections and physical evidence of our effort will take time. For those seeds we have already planted, it is amazing (and at times difficult) to think about what has already started happening under the surface! The Yahelnikim are beginning to recognize faces and know names of people and places. The residents of Shapira and the children in our schools are becoming familiar with our names and confidently shouting them from 20 feet away. The roots of our newly planted seeds are growing rapidly. They are stretching farther then I ever thought possible in such a short time. Throughout our journey together I know I will make mistakes, I will over water certain relationships and under water others. I might forget how many types of seeds I plant becoming plentiful in one and lacking in another. None of these mistakes however take away from the substance of what we are really doing here. Together we are all on a journey.

Slowly we will help one another grow and learn. It may be long after this group of Yahelnikim are gone that certain seeds sprout, one that have laid dormant contemplating the unknown for a very long time. Others will seem to come more easily, eager to leave the warm comfort of their soil and breath in unfamiliar air. Speed has never been an ingredient for friendships. And above all else, friendship is what we are growing here, in all of its different varieties.

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