When your work no longer feels like work, you’re doing the right thing. And for Lauren Goodsmith, this rings true.
An avid lover of gardening and nature’s renewing beauty, Lauren has integrated her passion into her profession.
Beginning in 2009, Lauren helped develop the Healing Garden at Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, supported by TKF/Nature Sacred funding. Through her work coordinating the Intercultural Counseling Connection, which provides culturally responsive, no-cost therapeutic services for asylum seekers and migrants impacted by trauma, Goodsmith is the Firesoul who cares for the Northeast Interfaith Peace Garden.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work and garden side-by-side with clients and community members of all ages, and to witness the healing, transformative power of these beautiful green places.”
Lauren sees her role as a Firesoul as being the “guardian of a special green space.” But she is more than just a guardian; she is a provider and an innovator in helping to maintain her Sacred Place, which enables the “reconnection, restoration [and] recreation” that its visitors need.
The Northeast Interfaith Peace Garden has grown over the years. It is comprised of many different sections. The 43-foot labyrinth, with different colored bricks interlaid to form a spiraling circle, is a way for visitors to recenter themselves.
Some view it as a place to pray, while others walk the labyrinth to find peace of mind. The labyrinth leads to the Sacred Writings Garden, which houses five separate circular gardens, each dedicated to its respective religion: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Earth Religions, and the Eastern Religions. There is also a vegetable and herb garden that has been established behind the convent building, which now houses the Connection program and its partner nonprofit, Asylee Women Enterprise.
The garden means different things to each person who passes through it.
“There are clients who have been subdued or withdrawn but then light up when they come out to the vegetable/herb garden: a Syrian refugee who eagerly gathers parsley; a couple from East Africa who have planted rows of okra, beans and peppers; another client who single-handedly cleared three raised beds of weeds, making way for squash and watermelon seeds.”
For some, it serves as a place of refuge and peace, yet for others, it serves as a place of purpose. This diversity in individuality allows Lauren’s Sacred Place to serve and benefit its community.
Photo credit: Maureen Porto.