Study Guide

Seedfolks Community

By Paul Fleischman

Community

"But she planted 'em way too early. She's lucky those seeds even came up."

"But they did," said Ana. "And it's up to us to save them."

It was a weekend in May and hot. You'd have thought that those beans were hers. They needed water, especially in that heat. She said the girl hadn't come in four days—sick, probably, or gone out of town. Ana had twisted her ankle and couldn't manage the stairs. She pointed to a pitcher. "Fill that up and soak them good. Quick now." (3.7-9)

Check out how Ana and Wendell work together to save Kim's plants. On the one hand, it's pretty sweet that Ana cares so much about saving those wee beans. But on the other hand, Ana is the reason they're dying, so she also feels responsible. Plus, did you notice how Ana orders Wendell around? Looks like building community isn't always an easy feat.

There's plenty about my life I can't change. Can't bring the dead back to life on this earth. Can't make the world loving and kind. Can't change myself into a millionaire. But a patch of ground in this trashy lot—I can change that. Can change it big. Better to put my time into that than moaning about the other all day. That little grammar-school girl showed me that. […] That Monday I brought a shovel home from work. (3.13, 15)

Kim is having a bigger impact on creating a community than she realizes. It's kind of like a ripple effect: Kim's plants make Ana and Wendell want to help her. And then this inspires Wendell to plant his own seeds in the lot. Keep an eye out to see if Wendell keeps the ripples going and influences someone else.

I start up conversations in lines and on the bus and with cashiers. People see I'm friendly, no matter what they've heard about whites or Jews. If I'm lucky, I get 'em talking to each other. Sewing up the rips in the neighborhood. (6.2)

All Sam wants is for everyone to get along. In his dream world, we'd all be friends. We have to admit, that does sound pretty great. What do you think of how Sam says that getting different people to talk to each other is like "Sewing up the rips"? Do you think Sam is optimistic that the community can be healed?

When I wake up, I no more like to be with people, like before. Afraid of everyone, all the time. I don't leave apartment for two months. Neighbor buys food for me at store. I don't open door if someone knocks, even friends—only for food. Afraid to walk on sidewalk with people. I hire Korean man to run dry cleaning shop. I never go in. That happen two years ago. Very slowly, I get better. I go to store and buy my food, but very fast. Then not so fast. Very lonely, but still afraid. Then I pass by garden. (8.2)

After a man robs Sae Young's dry cleaning shop and beats her up, she becomes scared of everyone. And we can't blame her; she did have a traumatic experience. The way she deals with this is to withdraw from all community, which leaves her feeling totally alone. Did you notice how many times she says the word "afraid" in the first half of this quote? But keep an eye out because once she sees the garden, Sae Young's whole attitude towards community is going to change.

I want to be with people again. Next day I go back and dig small garden. Nobody talk to me that day. But just be near people, nice people, feel good, like next to fire in winter.

[…] Even if I don't talk to anyone, sound of people working almost like conversation, all around. People visit friends. I listen to voices. Feel very safe. Then man walk over and ask about peppers. I grow hot peppers, like in Korea. First time that someone talk to me. I was so glad, have trouble talking. (8.3-4)

Sae Young has gone from being super fearful of other people to super happy to be part of a community. Check out how she relishes hearing her neighbors talk together. What do you think makes Sae Young feel so safe here? What is it about the garden that changes Sae Young's mind about being afraid of people?

This old man with no teeth and a straw hat showed me how to tie the plants up to stakes. Then someone else told me all their diseases. (9.5)

Curtis is getting some know-how on tomato-growing from his garden neighbors. Did you notice how Curtis doesn't know the names of these helpful folks? Well, it doesn't seem to make their community any less important. In fact, these friendly neighbors help Curtis grow beautiful plants, even if they don't know each other's names. Now that's a pretty special community.

Then our solitary status ended, as a result of a downpour. When the rain came that day, the other gardeners all ran in the same direction, as if in a fire drill. We followed and found them sheltered beneath a shoe store's overhang two doors down, apparently their customary refuge. The small dry space forced us together. In fifteen minutes we'd met them all and soon knew the whole band of regulars. (10.7)

Nora and Mr. Myles have been fending for themselves in the garden. But with a little help from the weather, they've now got a new group of chums. Looks like people aren't just moseying into the community garden these days—now there are "regulars" there all the time, and Nora and Mr. Myles get to be part of this group. Who knew rain could bring people together so much?

Yet we were all subject to the same weather and pests, the same neighborhood, and the same parental emotions toward our plants. If we happened to miss two or three days, people stopped by on our return to ask about Mr. Myles' health. We, like our seeds, were now planted in the garden. (10.8)

For Nora and Mr. Myles, the community garden isn't just a place to make a ton of new friends. It's also a place where they can settle down and grow along with their plants. We're pretty intrigued by Nora's comparison of people and plants here. What do you think of her simile? How are the people in the garden "planted" like the seeds?

Those conversations tied us together. In the middle of summer someone dumped a load of tires on the garden at night, as if it were still filled with trash. A man's four rows of young corn were crushed. In an hour, we had all the tires by the curb. We were used to helping each other by then. A few weeks later, early in the evening, a woman screamed, down the block from the garden. A man with a knife had taken her purse. Three men from the garden ran after him. I was surprised that I was one of them. […] I asked the others. Not one of us had ever chased a criminal before. And most likely we wouldn't have except near the garden. There, you felt part of a community. (11.4)

If you're looking for a heartwarming story about the community garden coming together, Amir is here to deliver. It may have taken a long time, but eventually all the different people in the garden start to get along. And not just that. Now they're going out of their way to help each other out. Did you notice that the guys from the garden help out a total stranger? That garden has definitely built up a strong community bond.

I remember how mad I got when I saw a man reach through someone's fence by the sidewalk and try to grab a tomato. I said "How dare you!" He pulled back his hand and said he'd heard it was a community garden. (13.4)

For Florence, community means that every gardener should respect his or her neighbor's plants. So she's pretty angry when a random dude tries to take a tomato from someone's garden. The craziest part of this quote is the would-be tomato-snatcher's reasoning: he figures this is a "community garden" so he can take a tomato. Were you as intrigued by the guy's response as we were? He seems to have a pretty different definition of community than Florence does. Which definition do you think Seedfolks supports?