Stolen produce brings unexpected lessons for Burlington preschoolers
Posted April 29
Burlington, N.C. — Children at a Burlington preschool reaped lessons in forgiveness and generosity this week following the theft of their class project.
The staff planned to use a small vegetable garden at Holy Comforter Community Playschool to teach the students about nature and health. School Director Eva Green-Baysmore said, however, that someone walked into the church's playground late Monday or early Tuesday and took the produce the youngsters had been growing.
"Our younger class came out and noticed that their garden boxes were completely wiped out," Green-Baysmore said Friday. "They were very sad because (the vegetables) weren't there. We had planned on making a tossed salad with them this week."
Church Rector Adam Shoemaker said it was time for a lesson in forgiveness.
"I almost immediately thought to myself, 'This is the opportunity to make it a teaching moment,'" Shoemaker said, noting that the person who took the produce – the children have dubbed him or her "the Garden Bandit" – probably needed the food.
Student Marli Poole agrees with that notion.
"They just don't have food, and they need some, so they steal," she said.
Green-Baysmore and her staff helped the students make a poster that says they forgive the Garden Bandit but ask that the person doesn't steal again.
"They placed their handprints on it, and they wanted to put a sad face on it so people would know they were sad," she said.
The poster caught the attention of many in the community, and once people heard what happened, plant donations started pouring in, teaching the children the redeeming values of kindness and generosity.
"Having kids teach our community about forgiveness is so important," Shoemaker said. "The more I've thought about it, I think this is the way our world changes. Kids learning lessons like this who will grow into adults and be wholehearted and loving."
The students have returned to gardening, and the sign they made has been laminated and will hang from the garden fence of the garden to remind anyone who wants food to just ask first.