This past year was harder than I had anticipated. Though I will further explore that statement later, I want to talk about one aspect in particular relating to this past year – the street-side produce stand.
Since 2009 I have put a small stand out in front of the house. It started with extra produce which was more than I could give away at church. The idea was to charge less than Small Town Grocery, who is expensive and has a poor selection, but enough to cover my gardening costs. I was not in it to get rich.
Over time I have come to realize how much my neighbors appreciate the close availability of fresh produce. The working mom across the street would send her kids over for peppers to make with supper. The assisted living residents would stop by for a tomato or a hanging basket of begonias, as those were one of the few plants able to grow in the limited light of their apartments. Someone canning and needing just a few more tomatoes knew were to stop. The family with only a few dollars to spend on fresh produce could make their money go further. The neighbor across the street bought me out of bedding plants to complete her yard work. The mail carrier needing a few things, but no time to run into the store after work. As time went on, I began to get a feel for the community, realizing what a blessing this was for people. That is one thing I would remember when I needed the extra energy to keep it going.
(Side note: my husband recently shared with me that at least one person stopped and bought from the stand assuming we needed the money. “Why else would someone do it?”, they reasoned. )
The stand was started before we became foster parents, before the loss of my husband’s father, before the loss of someone close to me to suicide, and before other trials in our lives. It was one of the things I would do to keep my sanity in times of otherwise emotional chaos.
Over time, my friendship with my neighbor grew due to the time we spent on gardening related activities, including running this stand together. Without her, I am not sure I could have seen it through that first summer with George and Jack. The following year she had some major medical issues that kept her from gardening at all, let alone helping with the stand. I was able to pick up things and still help her family have some of the fresh produce they had now grown used to during the summers.
Having the produce stand has also resulted in some unintended opportunities. It has allowed my neighbor-friend to realize another area of need outside of our community that provides better income on a more consistent basis, during the summers, with not a lot of extra effort. I too have begun noticing other areas of opportunity and have had the confidence to try them.
When this past Spring was approaching I knew I had to say “no” to more things in my life due to new priorities. It was going to be for a season, but it was still hard to accept. The produce stand had become so second nature I was not sure I could stop. It had become a part of who I was. “My house is the one with the produce stand out front,” was often how I explained to people where I lived. It had also started taking up more of my time and mental energy.
My biggest worry was how to share this with my neighbor-friend. My second thought was for those who had relied on the stand as a source of affordable fresh produce.
When I shared my conclusion with my friend, her reaction was a sense of relief. Not at all the reaction I was expecting. She too had been trying to figure out the words to use to say that she could not do the produce stand this year. Her family responsibilities were going to be increasing, taking up more of her time. We both had been worried about letting the other down when in reality it was not the right season for either of us.
As Spring turned into Summer I had several people ask about the produce stand. While they were disappointed, I assured them it would be for a season, not permanent.
It was the right decision. As Summer went along, it was very obvious I could not have done it all. I did not want to do it all. While we missed the extra cash flow, it was not something we were relying upon to make ends meet.
I did not even need it as a source of extra produce to preserve, as that was something else to which I had said “no”. It helped that I had canned a lot of extra the past 2 years, enough to see us through on several different items.
What started out as an act of desperation when I had begun to feel overwhelmed, ended up being a very healthy thing. It allowed me to step back, re-evaluate if this was something I wanted to keep doing, to spend my time on, or something I needed to let someone else take over. (Several other gardeners had begun doing the same thing in the last year or two.)
While I see myself picking it back up this coming summer, I also see myself setting boundaries. We had both begun feeling as if we had to put the stand out, not because we had extra produce but because people expected it to be there. It was becoming more of a burden than a blessing.
Having the extra time this past year has allowed flexibility in deciding what was best for our family at this time. Even that has changed several times as various needs have come and gone.
While I wish I could say, “This is what is going to happen, this is what is going to work for us in the upcoming 12 (unforseen) months”, I know better. Forget about His laughing at my presumptions, I would do it for Him.
So, for now, I see that this past year was only “for a season”. Whether my forecast is accurate or not remains to be seen. I now know that I can let go and still be Me, that my identity is tied to more that something I happen to be doing at this time, even if it is something I greatly enjoy doing. This is a lesson I seem to have needed reminding of yet again.
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