My mother is from Brooklyn and despite living in Rochester, NY for over 50 years, she has not lost her accent of origin. With the advent of new technology, we have learned that Siri does not understand Brooklynese which has led to text messages that range from confusing to outright hilarious.
Recently I received the following message: “I am a gardener when I speak to you.” I have not yet deciphered what the message was supposed to be, but the text left me pondering none the less. A gardener plants seeds, enriches soil, cuts away what is no longer needed, and nurtures growth. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my mother has always been a gardener when she speaks to me. Through words she has planted beliefs and values, soothed me when hurt, encouraged me when struggling and supported me when it was hard to let go. And if she has been a gardener to me, I began to wonder what kind of gardener I have been, not only to my children but to my family, friends, colleagues, and those I have served over my career as a therapist and consultant. What kind of ideas have I been planting and nurturing? How have I used my words – as fertilizer or as a toxin?
As we collectively embark on the journey of expanding the NYS Trauma Informed Network and Resource Center, this seems like a critical question to ask of ourselves and each other. One of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett, wrote “words create worlds.” It reminds me of the power of words and the importance to choose them wisely. Our words shape the culture of our environment. As I have conversations with colleagues across the state, my team, and the individuals I am privileged to serve, what kind of gardener am I when I speak to them? Am I creating the conditions that contribute to them reaching their full potential or are my words inhibiting growth?
Together, we have the opportunity to plant the seeds within our own communities to blossom into an incredible statewide garden fertilized with the trauma informed values of safety, trust, transparency, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. I encourage you to envision the garden in which you desire to live, work and play and then remember “I am a gardener when I speak to you.”
And a special thank you to my mother for your lifetime of love which enabled me to receive the message that I needed even if it was not the one you intended to send.