Knocking on doors with Senator Bill Ferguson in Cherry Hill, I met Miss Inita, and I asked her: “What things can I help with in your neighborhood?”
She didn’t mind chatting for a while, and so we lingered on her front porch and admired her pretty garden. Being a gardener myself, I always feel kinship with folks who love growing things and making the world more beautiful. We talked about her day lilies and her prospects for this year’s sunflower harvest.
“Last year, the sunflowers came in 13 feet tall!” she announced, “But it’s the marigolds you have to watch – they’ll take over the whole garden.”
Her biggest concern about her neighborhood is the cars that speed recklessly up and down her street. Miss Inita described how dangerous it feels when cars race through the street’s blind curve, and how common it is to see cars ignore the stop signs at the nearby intersection.
I understand how she feels. One of the great features of city life is the energy and vitality of our public spaces – our sidewalks and streets, parks and plazas and painted alleys – are places where we can meet, greet and enjoy life. Too often in our city, public spaces are designed in ways that hamper this vitality. And a glaring example of apathy to these issues is the residential street that feels like a highway. This is something I care a lot about, and am working on through Complete Streets initiatives in southeast. Senator Ferguson and I tell Miss Inita about traffic calming solutions that we might be able to work on.
Fifteen minutes after we’d said our farewells to Miss Inita, from across the street, she called out to us: “Robbyn, I have something for you!”
“Ma’am please wait, let me come to you!” I replied, but she insisted. She held out a small envelope, with my name written on it. “Take this” she said. As I held the small envelope, she balanced a larger one in her other hand, filled with tiny sharp seeds.
Marigold seeds, a gift from her garden, to mine.
Humans have shared plants and seeds from time immemorial. It’s how corn traveled across the Americas, and wheat throughout the ancient middle east. When Miss Inita gifted me with her Marigold seeds, she forged a connection between our gardens, our neighborhoods, and our hearts. When I saw her moving across that street – the street we’d just spoke about being dangerous – just to bring me those seeds, it showed me that we’d made a connection, simply through a conversation.
These are #ourstories, and I am committed to listening to each of yours.