Take the Time… by Andy Tonkin

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Look Mom…I’m an Activist with a vegetable garden in my front yard.

My life today is much different than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Although, I’m sure we can all say that to some extent. But I mean really different, like 180 degrees different.

My old friends have noticed it and I’ve been asked by them many times, “What gives?”  You see, they aren’t used to the new me, the activist me. The person they remember was quite different back then. So to answer their question as directly as I can, I simply say, “I care now.”

Don’t get me wrong, I cared back then too, it’s just that the things I cared about then were very different things and in many cases they were mostly about me or how my life would be affected by them. So what I should be saying is, “I care about others now”.  Becoming a parent will do that to you. It’s a requirement of the job description to care for people and things other than yourself. My mom raised me to care about others so I guess looking back I realize I wasn’t truly different back then, I was just too preoccupied with my own life to REALLY care about others. I’m not so preoccupied anymore. Things like the environment, climate change, sustainability and  social justice issues matter to me now.

Whatever the change, it happened very slowly. You know the kind of slowly I’m talking about, right? It’s the looking in the mirror one day wondering where all the wrinkles and grey hair came from kind of  slowly. The kind of slow that you just don’t notice until it’s done and you’re left wondering…when did that happen?

I take the time now. Not just time to care about others but time to do things for others too. Time to do things like plant a vegetable garden in my front yard and give away the produce to my neighbours. The catch? Simple. Our garden is called the Pay it Forward Garden. All I ask is that you pay it forward. Ideally that means you plant your own Pay it Forward Garden at your house and together we inspire others to do the same and so on. But a random act of kindness works too.  The concept is very simple; it’s part of a movement to Grow Food, Not Lawns and it’s my own radical little way to give back to others in my community.

We’ve had quite a response from the neighbourhood to our little garden so far. Some people stop on the sidewalk while I am working in the garden to tell me I better put a fence up or people will be helping themselves. It’s interesting to see the look on their faces when I tell them that’s exactly the point. Once I explain what we are trying to do, many tell me what a wonderful idea it is and a few say that we’ve inspired them to do it. It’s been a very good conversation starter towards building community. Plus, we get tomatoes.

So what’s the moral of the story that I want you to take from all this? “It’s never too late to start something” is a good one. “Do onto others” or “We’re all in this together” works too. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Yes to all of it…all of that is great. But the truth is I’m still working this out for myself. I guess if I had to sum it up in a in a catchy tag line, it would be this:  Take the time.

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