I escaped to the United States Botanic Garden this afternoon. If you are ever in Washington DC on a cold winter day, THIS is a perfect escape. It is warm and full of bright, blooming, beautiful flowers and amazing plants. I happened to show up at just the right time of year, too, it is ORCHID SEASON at the Botanic Garden! Nothing could be prettier.
|Don't you agree that being surrounded by flowers like these makes for a great place to sit and write?|
|Nature has some lovely colors in her pallette|
I brought my laptop with the plan of sitting among the flowers and writing up a piece or two for this Kindness project. Little did I know I would witness a Kindness Activist in action!! As I was sitting and writing, a volunteer walked by. I looked up and made eye contact with Susan (who has the same name as me!), who had picked up an orchid bloom that had fallen off the plant. She showed it to me and it was absolutely gorgeous. Then she GAVE IT TO ME! What luck!
|I could sit and stare at orchids all day long...|
That action, plus her smile, and the fact that her name tag told me she was a VOLUNTEER and not an employee, made me realize that I might have just met a Kindness Activist!! So of course I asked if I could talk with her about this project.
Susan told me that she has volunteered at the Botanic Garden for 5 – 7 years. She comes in once a week and talks with visitors. Usually she is in charge of talking about cacao (which is an amazing tree!) but now because it is orchid time, orchids are her subject.
|This is the cacao tree, Susan's normal subject to explain to visitors|
As we were talking a woman and her son (who looked to be about 11 or 12 years old) came up and Susan talked with them about the banana tree (which she taught them is not a tree at all – it is an HERB! What looks like the trunk is actually LEAVES and if you were to cut a banana tree trunk, you would not see “rings” like you would with trees). She explained that banana plant so well and made it so interesting that even the pre-teen boy was totally engaged! J She also visited with some other people about the garden in general and orchids. And then she took time to talk about kola nuts to a visitor. She is a very welcoming person and a great ambassador for the Botanic Garden!
|This is the banana "tree" Susan explained about. Isn't it so exotic looking???|
When I asked her why she chose to volunteer at this particular place, she explained that she used to live in Baton Rouge and was a Master Gardener there. She was going to do the Master Gardener program in DC when she moved here, but decided to take the training to volunteer at the Garden instead. She ALSO is a volunteer docent at the Kreeger, a DC Art Museum (her background is in Art History). And there is one MORE – she also works with children who are behind on their grade level reading at Garfield Elementary School in DC! She goes to the school and helps them read.
You heard that right, she volunteers at THREE different places. We sat and calculated the number of hours that she spends each month volunteering, and we tallied around 26 hours. Isn’t that amazing generosity? She said the secret to her volunteering is that she LOVES everything she volunteers for – plants, art, and reading. Her passion for the subjects mean the volunteering is fun!
|Susan talking to a visitor about the Botanic Garden.|
When you think about it, we ALL have knowledge or a passion about SOMETHING that we could share with others. And really, we all have TIME. Granted, some of us have stressful, time consuming jobs or children/elders to take care of, but if we really examined our lives, I bet we ALL HAVE SOME TIME available that we could use to volunteer. Maybe we couldn’t volunteer as much as Susan, but she could definitely be an inspiration to the rest of us. What about volunteering an hour every month? One hour every month giving back to the community. Maybe serving food at a homeless shelter. Maybe helping at a local library. Or maybe, like Susan, being a docent at an Art Museum. The point is just to be an active part of the community we live in and give back.
|Another gorgeous orchid|
P.S. – as we sat and talked more, when Susan mentioned that she gives an hour long tour of the Botanic Garden every week, I realized that I recognized her!! I have been on her tour before! And I learned a lot. Thanks for talking with me today, Susan, and thanks for the tour a couple years ago. You are a terrific Kindness Activist. I promise I will be back to the Botanic Garden and I will bring visitors with me. J
Do you know a Kindness Activist I can feature? Tell me about them. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
To learn more about the US Botanic Garden see here
To learn more about the Kreeger Museum where Susan is a docent, see here
|I LOVE FLOWERS :)|