Guest Blogger – Marla Saunders

This is Marla’s “learning journey” experience yesterday.  Thank you, Marla, for sharing on my site.  You can read more about my “learning journey” on Marla’s blog.
I know I expected to come to Q and be exposed to new ideas, maybe even conflicting ideas. I expected to feel like a fish out of water, and to learn from that feeling. I expected that the amazing lineup of speakers would be inspiring, creative, worth traveling to hear. I was right on all counts. What I did not expect, was the quality of interactions between the people attending Q. And what is so surprising about this serendipity, is that the people are what I will take home in my heart from my days at Q.
Part of Q is signing up for the “learning journeys which took place this afternoon. I signed up for the “Central Park Ecology” journey.

This journey toured through the gardens of central park, stopped at the zoo, and focused on the importance of green spaces in the city. 

Our learning journey started immediately upon leaving Gotham Hall.  Some of our students went one way, some of them went another. All of us,

I think, arrived at the north end of Central Park. My group traveled up the 6 line, and we exited in the southern part of Harlem.  This was the moment I realized the value of our trip: I was in another world. It was easy to put up my white, middle-class defenses. I’d like to say that I saw beyond my defenses eventually, but I don’t know that I ever did. The neighborhood we walked through was obviously struggling, and I sympathized with them as I kept my eyes down and walked. It was kind of a rough area, the kind of neighborhood where our church sends mission trips. But emerging from a brief tunnel, suddenly we were in Central Park, and the world changed. Bright pink trees, yellow daffodils, lilacs, hyacinth: God’s beauty there on display for rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old. In the midst of struggle, incredible beauty. That IS the importance of green spaces in the city.

I’d like to say the rest of the tour was inspiring, that I learned things I’d never known before. I’d tell you that, but I can’t, because we didn’t stay with our learning journey. We ended up on a learning journey of our own, I guess. The group spent about 30 minutes learning the facts and figures of New York parks, the park system, and the funding needed to keep the parks. I sat on the steps on a beautiful New York Day and watched the sun shine down. The words blended into each other, my mind wandered. When the group moved off to discuss the gardening strategies of the English garden, we headed across the park and around the lake on our own. I saw moms pushing babies and young studs running around the lake. I saw adorable dogs (and one really ugly dog). I smelled the flowers and felt the breeze, and I felt complete standing in this oasis. It was good, and if it wasn’t the learning journey I had intended at the outset, it was the one I needed.



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  • Dad April 11, 2008  


    I am never amazed at the quality and substance of your writing. Your ability to put into works your thoughts and sight is simply wonderful. You are able to express your self very well with words. You always make me so proud of you. Thank you for sharing your words with everyone. I know it is a welcome and appreciated by all.

    Love Dad

  • Big John Scott April 13, 2008  

    Marla and Jenny-

    Thanks so much for posting this. My wife and I served at Q—I was the front door ‘Bouncer’ guy checking nametags and directing people to the info center. Your word picture of the beauty of the flowers inspired me beyond belief…we’ve gotten 3/4 of an acre in a poverty stricken area of St. Augustine, and knew we wanted to plant a community garden there..but this blog really inspired me about the boundaries and the huge importance of beauty. Thanks again and we look forward to hearing how thoughts from Q ferment in your spirit and work themselves out in your life.

    -big John
    Jacksonville, FL

  • Marla Saunders April 13, 2008  

    big John,
    Thank you for your comment here and on my blog. SO appreciated.

    May I recommend a book for you? I’ve been reading “Make The Impossible Possible” by Bill Strickland. He runs the Manchester Bidwell center in an impoverished area of Pittsburgh. GREAT book…inspiring in the way his vision becomes reality. Here is one quote for you to hold you over until you can read it:

    “If you need proof that the human heart is resilient, and that beauty and hope and high expectations can work wonders in even the most difficult lives, I can’t imagine a better way to find it than by raising an orchid.”

    I can’t say this with more passion…read this book. It will help you dream big.

  • name May 6, 2008  

    I’ve more or less been doing nothing to speak of. I’ve just been staying at home waiting for something to happen. Today was a loss. My life’s been really bland today, but so it goes.,