A Garden of Growth: The Story of a Homecoming

Friday, November 12, 2021

BSVM alum, Nancy Figuereo, wrote the following piece near the end of her year of service and ministry. She reflects on the image and work of tending a garden and links that to her personal and spiritual growth: “A year of service can make space and time for true transformation through care of our growing seeds in the soil of our souls and hearts.” Read below for the full reflection.

Investing in your personal journey by committing to a year of service in community may result in new growth and blooming for you as well. If you’re interested in what a year of transformation and growth could look like for you, see our site for application details, and schedule a conversation with one of our staff today!

A Garden of Growth: The Story of a Homecoming
By Nancy Figuereo, BSVM 2019-2020
A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross

A bloomed flower is the fruit of the work done before it. It starts with planning, grabbing supplies, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, controlling pests, watering properly, waiting, and then observing the blooming. Throughout this process, one is thankful and grateful for the journey. The journey contains the lessons and the hard work that is invested so that you can be proud of accomplishments down the road. My personal voyage with my spiritual growth has been a hard course to run. For a very long time I blamed myself for a lot of the realities I was facing. Being a woman of color in the US meant that I was always a part of the forgotten populations. My intersectionality of marginalized identities exacerbated the constant stimulus of being looked down on. Because the world—across all sectors— never saw me as beautiful, worthy of health or even dignity, I internalized that hurt and was then forced to detach myself from moving beyond superficiality with people. I barely wanted to connect with others while walking around this world; instead of my full self, I was a broken person just merely getting through it.

As I continued to tend to my garden of spiritual health, I came across a challenge: I needed to learn the role of community in my growth spiritually. I was very individualistic due to the environment I had grown up in. I overlooked the importance of recognizing the light of God in others until I realized how that recognition is the way to look inward. As I invested in the seeds of my relationships, I started to recognize why we all are made in the likeness of God. Due to the fact that everyone is a reflection of God, our relationships with each other and nature are crucial for understanding our relationship with God. When our relationships have dignity and respect for one another, they are the manifestations of God’s love. Thus, I began to look for the fruits of other people’s spiritual journey. By observing the hurdles and triumphs that others have gone through, I learned how to heal and restore myself from the battle scars I received due to my own hurdles of the gardening process. I searched for a community that would reflect back the healing I needed; this search helped me to feel connected to others in the community, to myself, and to God as well.

After this realization, I chose to be open to the therapeutic love and support that people were willing to give me. I began to seek solace in my service site community which led me to connect on a deeper level with multiple generations of women of color. When I finally found this safe community of women, I could ask the questions and receive the advice to begin to balance between my intersectional lived experience and my spirit’s true self. All of these women offered their guidance and mentorship around the black femme experience amongst a world that continues to negate my intersectional existence. They taught me to be open, unlearn my negative habits and to embrace all of me all the time. To stop separating myself and unify all of my identities into the beautiful mosaic that I am. Ultimately, they taught me how to come home to myself and to remember that there is only one me, and the world should have the best version of me. This community supported me by tending to my spiritual garden alongside me.

Overall, doing a year of service has given me healing. The individuals that I have encountered this year have offered me more healing and compassion than I could ever offer them. Through the people, formation, and service, I have been enlightened with the tools of self-compassion, love, and honoring. Healing enables me to walk this earth with grit and grace. To embrace all parts of my intersectional reality rather than compartmentalizing myself. I am empowered to be the life-giving, full, authentic person I was meant to be. This year led me to shed my stifling habits and settle into the true essence of my existence in the freest form: a proud Black Latina woman who does not need to hide herself, but rather dwells in her mere existence because her existence is radical. A year of service can make space and time for true transformation through care of our growing seeds in the soil of our souls and hearts.

Nancy with some students learning about nutrition at the Sarah Garland Jones Center