When children come to work in the Grove Community Garden, Rob Till tells them to watch their step, be aware and be ready.
“I’m teaching the children to come in here and walk like an Indian tracker,” said Till, the garden’s director. “Know where your feet are, have your balance. This is the way I believe you should go through life.”
What does that mean? It means to walk with awareness of one’s surroundings. If a person is aware of his or her surroundings, he or she will be more apt to notice the struggles of others, which opens the door to opportunities to show kindness, Till said.
“If you’re in a mall, and the sights and the sounds [distract you], you don’t know if a momma and a baby just fell,” he said.
Till said it’s a cycle — the kindness people show him and his garden allows him to teach kindness to children. Kindness can only carry him so far though, and Till is thankful for the benefit of newly acquired health care, which allows him to keep playing his role in the cycle.
“I’m grateful for the kindness that I see in my life and in my world,” said Till, who suffers from fibromyalgia and other health problems. “All that’s what’s keeping the world from exploding is the amount of people doing kindness.”
Till sees kindness when volunteers give their time to weed the garden’s vegetable patches. Till sees kindness when others are willing to donate seeds and gardening equipment.
“I’m around a lot of it,” Till said. He spoke both figuratively and literally, as he stood in the middle of the garden last week, surrounded by garden plots and donated materials, under a roofed shelter, his mood undampened by steady rainfall.
Plenty of individuals and organizations have gotten their hands dirty in the vegetable patches, provided supplies or otherwise assisted the garden. Among them are James River Elementary School, Temple Beth El, Kiwanis Club, The Arc of Greater Williamsburg, Dominion Energy, BB&T Bank, the Jewish Community Center and Kelley Herbert of the county Parks and Recreation Department.
Till, a Grove resident, has spent a lot of time on the garden. Now, he spends some time on himself. After relying on free clinics for his medical needs, Till enrolled in health care in August.
“I’m empowered, I’m getting healthier,” he said.
It’s been a great boon to the man, and therefore a boon to the garden, nestled behind James River Elementary School, where he has made his life’s work.
“It’s like having money in the bank, which I don’t have,” said Till. “It allows me to now take care of myself after some poor health. I have five doctors. More if I need them. And I can switch if I want.
“I need to be healthy because this project is ongoing and it’s important to many people,” he said. “What you put out, you reap.”
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, email@example.com, @jajacobs_