Pruning and flourishing: gardening and the work of Restore

Man holding tray of plants

Are you green-fingered? According to the Royal Horticultural Society[1], May is a time for sowing bedding plants, earthing up potatoes, mowing the lawn and (of course) weeding. As the weather turns milder and the days grow longer, the keen gardener relishes the opportunity to spend as much time as possible out-of-doors. The RHS Chelsea flower show begins tomorrow, with a strong theme of ‘garden for the community’ running through this year’s designs. There is one garden which is in support of Centrepoint, a leading youth homelessness charity, and TV personality Vicky Pattison is sleeping out in it to help raise awareness of issues surrounding homelessness.[2]

Whilst I wouldn’t personally class myself as a gardener (keen or otherwise!), I do understand the feeling of satisfaction that growing edible produce can provide. Planting and tending to things such as salad, vegetables, and herbs; nurturing them until they are ready to eat, then using them fresh from the garden can give a genuine sense of achievement. It’s true that produce tastes better when is has been freshly picked, and the pride that comes from eating something you have grown from seed yourself cannot be understated.

This is a pleasure some of our residents are discovering. The family in our refugee house have planted some tomatoes and are looking forward to being able to eat the produce they grow. One former Restore resident who recently moved into his own flat, was ecstatic to learn that his new home came with outdoor space. He was eager to plant a variety of edible produce that he could use in his cooking. Support worker Hilary took him to a local nursery to purchase some herb plants, so he can begin with a potted kitchen garden.

Of course, gardening is a perfect metaphor for the work we do here at Restore, too. The gentle nurturing of plants helps them grow and flourish, just as the work of our team nurtures residents to flourish. Sometimes a gardener will have to prune, removing unproductive shoots to channel the plant’s energy into producing more fruit: often our residents have an area of their life that is holding them back from reaching their full potential; be that debt, unemployment, addiction or physical/mental health issues. Having a support worker who can help them to identify these areas and, in partnership with the resident, develop a plan to tackle them, is frequently the way to encourage the resident to grow and move forward in a positive way.

A flowering fuchsia plantI have a fuchsia in my garden that my husband cuts back every year, once it has finished flowering. Each time he does so, I look at the remaining, seemingly dead wood and think ‘he’s taken it too far, it won’t grow back from that next year.’ And yet, every spring, small green buds appear at the base of the shrub, and sure enough, come summer, it is a vibrant, colourful, flourishing corner of the garden that brings me joy. For many of our residents, society regards them in much the same way I view that fuchsia: too far gone; beyond help; hopeless. But – just as I am wrong about the shrub – our residents still have much to give. By providing them with the support they need, we are able to help our residents become vibrant, flourishing members of society once more.

In the gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus refers to God as a gardener, and himself as like a vine. He says “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”[3] As a Christian charity, we believe that knowing you are loved by Jesus is the best way to flourish. Whilst we never force faith issues on any of our residents, for any who wish to explore Christianity, we are always happy to facilitate. Our ‘Providing Homes, Giving Hope’ mantra is predicated upon the firm belief that true hope is found in Christ alone.

In the same way as my fuchsia needs a severe pruning for it to throw up new growth, sometimes God brings us to difficult points in our lives to help us learn to trust in Him. He uses challenging circumstances to bring us back to a point where we are willing to let Him work within us, so that new growth is under His control. At Restore, we have the privilege of witnessing that new growth in residents on a weekly basis. Whilst the ‘pruning’ may not be pleasant to endure, the fruit of it is a life that has hope, joy and a promising future.

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Fuchsia picture: