By Soraya Keiser
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, I drove down to the Peace Garden on Aurora Avenue in St. Paul to do some quick research for my story. When I got there, I was handed a large metal shovel. I had an unwritten humanities paper and geography quiz waiting for me back in my dorm, but there I was with my hands in the dirt, pulling out weed after weed. Root after root. My face was streaked with dirt because I had no way to pull my hair back and I kept trying to swipe strands of hair out of my face. But the stress of my mountain of homework soon got ripped out like the weeds.
Even though the evening wasn’t formal reporting, it was one of my favorite field reporting experiences. I didn’t conduct any formal interviews or snap any photos, but I had engaging conversations with interesting people. And it was beautiful. Because the best way to get to know someone is to see them in their space and experience their lives in the most authentic way possible. That is how a good story gets written, I got my hands dirty.
As I knelt in the garden, scuffing up my white Reeboks, one of the event organizers smiled down at me.
“Bethel students have had their hands in this soil,” he said. I was joining that legacy.
Although I was only there for two hours, I witnessed a vibrant community come together to keep their garden fruitful. People shared shovels, pizza and stories, unwinding from their days of work or school and having an overall great time.
When we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty and dig deeper into the lives of our community, we can find some pretty awesome stories.
Like a story about a student who spent hundreds of hours crafting a violin by hand (p. 6). Or an American Ninja Warrior who uses his ability to compete on the national level as a platform for adoption awareness (p. 36). Or Catholic students at Bethel who maintain their faith while boxed out in a Protestant school setting (p. 38).
Our writers, photographers and designers had to go beyond familiarity to find these stories and create the news magazine that is in your hands today. And of that, I am so proud. Good things happen when we have real conversations and aren’t afraid to show our curiosity in authentic ways. I encourage you to go out and follow that curiosity. Maybe you’ll find yourself among the weeds.