A Day at Grace Farms
I arrived right as Grace Farms was opening, and being a rookie, I drove up to the gate thinking it would magically open. It didn’t and I was momentarily stumped. Was this place not free? Was Google wrong? I already didn’t fit in with the area. Stately hedge fund mansions and homes lined the approach to Grace Farms and all I could think was is that I should have studied harder in college. But just as I was about to fall into a Woody Allen-esque bout of self loathing, something caught my eye. A little guardhouse and a friendly looking man waving me over. I turned the car around and drove up to the guard house. It didn’t take more than a few seconds to know I was in the right place. Unlike most guard house folks, this gentleman was different. Broad smile and bright eyes, it was apparent from the get go this was one guy who actually loved his job. He explained to me in the kindest of ways how the gates worked. Grace Farms was free, you just need a day pass, which he happily obliged me with, along with a handy map of the farm. He gave me directions to the welcome center and I was on my way.
A warm Welcome Center…
Next stop, the welcome center and again it was glaringly apparent that this place was as advertised. Everyone was so nice and more intriguingly…had a certain peace about them. I was floored by how the space had been transformed. I have been around quite a few horse farms (with friends, all riders and trainers) but the way these spaces were reimagined was breathtaking. It was the greatest muck of a stall I had ever seen. Each former stall repurposed with neat rows of chairs and tables. The horses were gone but their therapeutic ghosts remained. I found it hard to feel anything but peace in these halls. Little did I know what awaited me next…
Take me to the river
It’s hard to describe what I saw next but if you visit the Grace Farms website, you would see that the centerpiece is a building called the the River. Stepping out of the welcome center, you catch your first glimpse and it is easily one of the most breathtaking structures you will ever see. Expertly woven into the landscape, it is a masterpiece of glass and metal. Subtle, yet striking, I was a man in love.
BUILDINGS ARE NICE BUT…
Don’t get me wrong. I could live at Grace Farms and still never tire of taking photos of the place, but what really dawned on me was the hype really matched the reality. If Grace Farms key initiatives are Nature, Arts, Justice, Community & Faith, they were hitting on all cylinders. Nature was somewhat easy to see and understand right away. The natural setting was breathtakingly beautiful…from the meadows…to the pond…to the boardwalks. Little signs educating you on things you don’t always think about in your daily life. The why and how of how nature all works together in one big harmonious orchestration.
Arts were on full display too. Mother Nature’s art was on full display well as the art that was pried from the minds of the brilliant architects that created the River. But there was other forms of art that filled the air. The art of a warm smile at the coffee shop, the art of a good conversation with Luke manning the desk at the sanctuary, the art of a good chicken sandwich coming out of the kitchen. The brilliant reflection of the outside world on a glimmering book in the library. A sort of metaphorical image of what books are meant to convey.
Justice was there too, though in forms less visible to the naked eye and it’s not always a straight line. But it was palpable. There was justice in the form of two young women passionately planning a fundraiser that would change the world for its beneficiaries. There was justice for the man getting his chance to pitch his new idea to a few close friends after years of toiling in the corporate trenches. There was justice for the older couple who finally beat their neighbors at racquetball. I know Grace Farms aims to promote justice on a global level but these examples of everyday justice are a great foundation to that bigger aspiration.
Community was, of all my takeaways, the one that really impacted me the most. A young mother and her daughter enjoying the first beautiful day of spring. The patrons and the staff in the Commons getting along like life long friends. People of all shapes and sizes, a virtual mosaic of humanity coming together under one roof to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. A walk in the sun, a chat with friends. Heck a great cup of coffee (like the one I had). If Grace Farms intended to create a place where people could commune they nailed it. It felt like home. My home.
And there was Luke. I hesitantly opened the door to that sacred space called the sanctuary. I whispered a question to the young man behind the desk and he assured me that it was perfectly fine to talk normally. Yet our talk was anything but normal. We talked about Grace Farms. We talked about how he landed in this place at this time. We talked of his love…for Grace Farms- - the place. His love for Grace Farms- - the people. If this was the building that represented the faith initiative of Grace Farms, it did give me faith. Not because of the building nor it’s neatly lined pews. It was a renewed faith in humanity that came from a simple 15 minute conversation with Luke. I had faith that with people like Luke who have committed their life to an ideal like Grace Farms, that the world was surely going to be ok. It has to be ok.
Luke and his compatriots have forged the path…let’s all take that walk.