A Trek to the Trees for Health Garden


Thinking about the SH community and its life together occupies a significant amount of my time.  Right now, everyone, more or less has their own schedule. No group activity is mandatory. Perhaps it is akin to herding cats. Perhaps it is akin to Kairos time. I began a weekly newsletter to sharing information about upcoming events in the community, such as at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Balboa Park to stimulate dialogue and to test people’s interests.

Activities need to be within walking distance of SH.  Realizing that Balboa Park is minutes away, a sign up sheet to visit the Trees for Health Garden, featuring dozens of tree varieties with unique medicinal properties was placed in the common area. Favoring native, Mediterranean, tropical and subtropical varieties, the garden includes trees used in traditional healing practices around the world (Mulberry, Jujube, Coffee Berry), as well as those prized for their nutritional properties (Pecan, Bay Laurel, and Pomegranate) and commercial applications (Tea Tree, Willow, Allspice). Four residents signed up and two went. B who straddles both the housed and unhoused worlds and V a longer time resident who has a close relationship with another resident. Two very different souls venturing out to learn about the healing trees. Interestingly, V was quite knowledgeable about some of the trees and this backdrop provided him with an opportunity to share some of his story. I continue to be amazed by people’s stories. V was born in Romania but he has lived and fished commercially in Alaska. He is open about his struggles and hopes for a bright future with plans to start over in a southeastern state soon. Both enjoyed the venture out and wanted to return with their significant others. V shared with me how much he enjoyed his second visit to the garden in the same day with his friend.  The trip to the trees served as the medicine for opening up and building community.

The magnitude of brokenness in the lives of the residents is significant. Scars one cannot see they are so deep and have been there for so very long. Yet in many souls lives a spirit intent on overcoming. Listening to people’s stories of abuse, neglect, pain and hurt evokes a deep sense of deep gratitude but also a keen sense of the importance of simply being present.  The social engagement experience is an art, balancing presence, God’s time, and readiness to seize an opportunity. With one successful “field trip,” another one is planned for the following week again to Balboa Park, the audio tour of the whole park. No one signed up but the newsletter continues and so does the journey of getting to know people’s yearnings and interests that build trust and support the healing of souls.  It feels like Bible study will happen soon.


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