+
upworthy
Heroes

A man built a garden in Harlem and the children in the neighborhood bloomed

A man built a garden in Harlem and the children in the neighborhood bloomed

Tony Hillery was living the high life, running a limousine company and wearing Prada suits, when the financial crisis of 2008 hit. He lost his business and lines of credit and felt like he was too old to start over.

He kept reading about underfunded schools with no art, gym, or music—a sharp contrast to the private schools his kids had attended. So one day, he decided to take the subway to Harlem to see what he could do.

"I couldn't have been more arrogant," Hillery told Humans of New York. "I walked through the doors of the first elementary school I could find, asked for the principal, and said: 'I'm here to try to break the cycle of poverty.' She assigned me to the lunchroom, and that's where I started volunteering five days a week."

Hillery talked to the kids at lunch and they gravitated toward him. They called him "Mr. Tony" and treated him like Santa Claus. Their goofiness reminded him of his own kids.

"So when I learned that almost half of them were living in homeless shelters, that shit drove me crazy," he said. "It tore me up. I was looking for some way to help—anything."


He spotted an abandoned community garden across the street—the kids called it the 'haunted garden'—and decided to clean it up. He got the paperwork processed through the Parks Department and spent six weeks hauling out all the junk. He had no idea what he was going to do with the space other than clean it up.

"Then one morning a little girl tugged on my shoulder. A tiny little thing with glasses so big," he said. "Her name was Nevaeh. 'Heaven' spelled backwards. And she said: 'Mr. Tony, why don't we plant something?'"


Hillery didn't know anything about gardening, but a Google search showed him that it was hard to mess up growing herbs. So he got a dump truck of organic soil, some clearance herbs at Home Depot, and invited Nevaeh's kindergarten class to come and plant the first seedlings.

"There wasn't much structure in the beginning," he said. "A lot of times I'd just sit around with the kids and look at clouds. But over time the garden became a sort of outdoor science classroom. All of us were learning together. If something died, we'd just try a new spot. We learned about worms, and ladybugs, and praying mantises. Then we learned about food systems. I couldn't help but notice the diets of these kids: all sugar and processed food. Some of them couldn't name a single vegetable. But how could you blame them? There are 55 fast food restaurants in this community, but not a single supermarket."

Hillery and the kids started growing vegetables, and a handful of kids got really involved and invested in the garden, including Nevaeh. She came to everything Hillery planned—camps, nature walks—and though she was quiet and reserved at first, she started taking ownership of the garden.

"Those became her plants, not mine," he said. "Whenever volunteers came to help with composting-- Nevaeh would take the lead. And if you were doing it wrong, she'd grab that rake right out of your hands." That was 10 years ago. Since then, Hillery has expanded from one garden to 12 urban farms throughout Harlem and created an entire youth-oriented growing organization called Harlem Grown. Kids throughout the community help plant and tend the crops, learning science and agricultural lessons with hands-on experience. Since it started, Harlem Grown has given 6,000 pounds of organic produce to the community for free. Even Nevaeh's mom has gotten involved, serving as the Agricultural Director of the farms.

But Hillery explained to Humans of New York that the point of Harlem Grown is not just to grow food, but to grow healthy children.

"When you sit in this garden on a summer day—you hear things. There are fourteen homeless shelters within a four-block radius. So when it's hot outside, and the windows are open, you can hear the stress of poverty. Sometimes mothers will yell at these kids like they're grown men. They'll call them names. They'll tell them: 'you can't,' and 'you won't.' And after awhile the kids start to believe it.

When they first come into this garden— they're so freakin' happy. Especially the really young ones. But at the end of the day, they'll say: 'I'm going home.' And home means shelter. It's an epidemic, man. 115,000 kids in this city are living in shelters. It's a freakin' epidemic. But it's invisible. You'd never know these kids are homeless, because they're so happy.

But something happens around 9, 10, 11. I see it all the time. Those eyes dim, man. It's just life. There's too much stress around here. And they grow up fast. They lose that light. I just want to slow it down, that's all. I want them to have a safe place where they can just be them. That's all any of us want, right? To slow it all down so we can find out who we are?"

Hillery said he arrogantly went to Harlem thinking he had the answers, that he was going to fix kids. But in the past ten years, he's learned that they didn't need to be fixed or to become like him—they needed to stay like their young and happy selves. He was 52 pounds heavier and depressed before Harlem Grown, living a life that was all about things and money. The kids have taught him he was doing it all wrong.

And Neveah? She's sixteen now and an honor roll student.

"Recently she had a C in math," Hillery told Humans of New York, "so I said: 'Let's find you a private tutor, I'll pay for it.' But she wouldn't let me. She grabbed the rake out of my hand. She said: 'No Mr. Tony, I got this myself.' And she got a 93 on that final.

She was the tiniest little thing when I met her. With glasses so big. But even back then she had everything she needed. It just required a little protection. And a little time. She just needed some space to grow."

Well done, Mr. Tony, tending to the hearts and minds of the children of Harlem and helping them bloom.

Hear more from Hillery about Harlem Grown here:

Harlem Grownwww.youtube.com

Health

Dentist explains the 3 times you should never brush your teeth

Sometimes not brushing your teeth is the best way to protect them.

Representative Image from Canva

Add this to the list of things you didn't learn in health class.

For those who love the oh-so fresh feeling of immediately running to brush their teeth after a meal, we got some bad news.

London-based dental surgeon and facial aesthetics practitioner Dr. Shaadi Manouchehri recently shocked around 12 million viewers on TikTok after sharing the three occasions when you should “never” be scrubbing those pearly whites—if you want to actually protect your teeth, that is.

The hardest part about this video, which some viewers are undoubtedly still processing, is that each of these no-no times is exactly when brushing your teeth is the only thing you’ll want to do. So much for instincts.


Number one on Manouchehri’s list, which caused the most controversy in the comments, isright after vomiting. Yep, you read that right.

“This is because the contents of the stomach are extremely acidic and the mouth is already in a very acidic state so if you brush straight after [vomiting] you’re basically wearing away your enamel,” Manouchehri explained.

Of course, commenters weren’t willing to let this one go without a fight. One viewer wrote, “I would rather lose all of my teeth than not brush after vomiting.”

Manouchehri also says to avoid brushing your teeth directly after eating breakfast. This is because “when you’ve just eaten, the mouth is, again in a “very acidic state,” so if you’re brushing your teeth you’re rubbing that acid on the tooth, which wears down the enamel.” Other sources have also confirmed that brushing your teeth tight after any meal isn’t really recommended.

This goes double for right after sweets. Manouchehri says to wait a full 60 minutes before putting a toothbrush anywhere near your mouth after having something sugary. Because…you guessed it…acid.

Does this advice seem counterintuitive? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

@drshaadimanouchehri #dentist #dentistry #dentaladvice #learnontiktok #funfacts #londondentist #dentalcleaning #teethbrushing #teethbrushingmadeeasy #teethbrushingtips #londondentistry #marylebonedentist #fypシ ♬ original sound - Dr Shaadi Manouchehri

“Ah, yes, the three times I want to brush my teeth more than any other time,” one person joked.

Luckily, there are few alternatives to try if you want that good, clean mouth feeling but don’t want to compromise your enamel—the simplest being to either rinse with or drink water. You can also use sugar-free chewing gum or conclude your meal with dairy or non-acidic foods, according to Advanced Dental Associates. If you still crave a little more of a hygiene bang, you can opt for a mouthwash with fluoride and using a tongue cleaner, which removes excess acid, per Curetoday.com.

Guess there’s a time and a place for everything, even when it comes to dental hygiene.

Representative Image from Canva

There's no way they didn't understand what she was saying.

Okay, so maybe dogs don’t understand everything we tell them exactly as a human would. But is that gonna stop us from having full blown conversations with them? Of course not. And the times they do seem to comprehend what’s being communicated—pure comedy.

Take this dog mom’s hilarious pre-grooming pep talk with Shih-Tzus Branston, Pickle and Gizmo. She minced no words telling them exactly how this trip was gonna go. And the message seemed to be received.

Branston (the troublemaker, apparently) got a firm warning of what not to do, including telling white lies about his upbringing.

“I don’t need you running in telling the first dog you see that this is what this is what your hair used to look like when you lived in the Bronx running up and down the block, cause I know for a fact, Branston, that you live in a rural village,” she tells him.

Viewers, however, seemed on board with Branston’s Bronx-affiliation, even if it was a little white lie. One person joked, “don’t be mad at the treats that I got, I’m still Branny from the block.”

In the video, Branston is also instructed to not tell everyone that he “identifies as a BUll Mastiff,” which gets the most adorable look of disappointment for wee little Branston.

As for Gizmo and Pickle—mom’s best advice is to pretend like they don’t know Branston.

Perhaps the best part is mom’s British accent, which makes the entire clip feel like something pulled straight outta “Ted Lasso.” That, or the complete shock the Shih-tzu trio has at being informed of their weight class.

Watch:

@branstonandpickle01 Your NOT from the Bronx and you never ran up and down the block!! #dogsoftiktok #peptalktoyourdog #branstonwehavearrived #shihtzusoftiktok #peptalkbranston #funnydogvideos #funnyvideos #nyc #bronx #funny #dogs #dogtok ♬ original sound - Branston,Pickle&Gizmo

Perhaps Branston, Pickle, and Gizmo’s mom isn’t totally off-base by giving them a talking to. According to the website allshihtzu.com, this breed had a “unique intelligence,” which gets best demonstrated by their attuned, empathic connection to their human families. Meaning that while they might not have the same kind of smarts as border collies or other herding dogs, their super power is picking up social cues.

And, again, even if they had no earthly idea what their mom was saying, odds are she’d still be talking to them anyway. Why? Because pets are our babies. And baby talk is fun.jk

popular

6 alternatives to saying 'let me know if you need anything' to someone in crisis

If someone is drowning, you don't wait for them to ask for help. You just take action.

People going through major struggles don't always know what they need or how to ask for help.

When we see someone dealing with the loss of a loved one or some other major life crisis, it's instinctual for many of us to ask how we can help. Often, the conversation looks something like this:

Us: I am SO sorry you're going through this. What can I do to help?

Person in crisis: I honestly don't know right now.

Us: Okay…well…you let me know if you need anything—anything at all.

Person in crisis: Okay, thank you.

Us: I mean it. Don't hesitate to ask. I'm happy to help with whatever you need.

And then…crickets. The person never reaches out to take you up on the offer.


Was it that they didn't really need any help, this person going through a major life crisis? Unlikely. As sincere as our offer may have been, the problem may be that we didn't really offer them what they actually needed.

One of those needs is to not have to make decisions. Another is to not have to directly ask for help.

When a person is in a state of crisis, they can feel like they're drowning. They might be disoriented and fatigued, and doing anything other than keeping their head above water long enough to breathe can feel like too much.

If someone is drowning, you don't ask them what you can do to help or wait for them to ask. You just take action.

Here are some specific ways you can take action to help someone who you know needs help but isn't able or willing to ask for it:

1. Make them food

It may be tempting to ask if you can make them a meal and wait for them to say yes or no, but don't. Simply ask if they or anyone in their household has any dietary restrictions, and then start shopping and cooking.

Meals that can be popped in the refrigerator or freezer and then directly into the oven or microwave are going to be your best bets. Include cooking or reheating instructions if it's not obvious. Disposable aluminum trays are great for homemade freezer-to-oven meals and can be found at just about any grocery store. Casseroles. Stir fried rices. Soups. Comfort foods.

If you don't cook, you can buy them gift cards to local restaurants that deliver, or give them a DoorDash or UberEats gift certificate (large enough to cover the delivery, service fees and tip as well, which combined can be as much as a meal sometimes).

lasagna in the oven

Easy-prep meals people can throw in the oven are great.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Even better—organize a meal train

If you want to make it a community-wide effort and no one else has done so yet, set up a "meal train," where different people sign up for different days to bring meals to spread out the food help over time. There are several free websites you can use for this purpose, including Give In Kind, Meal Train, and Take Them a Meal. These sites make it super easy for anyone with the personalized link to sign up for a meal.

someone scrubbing a pot in a kitchen sink

There are always dishes to wash.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

2. Clean their kitchen and/or bathrooms

Kitchens are always in use, and keeping up with dishes, especially in a house full of people, is a challenge even under normal circumstances. Same with keeping the refrigerator cleaned out. Same with cleaning the bathroom.

Rather than asking if they want it done, as many people won't want to say yes even if they would appreciate the help, try saying something like, "I want to come and make sure your kitchen is ready for you to make food whenever you want to and that your bathroom is a clean space for you to escape to whenever you feel like it. Is Tuesday or Wednesday at 1:00 better for you?"

The fewer complex decisions a person in crisis has to make the better, so saying, "Is this or that better?" rather than offering open-ended possibilities can be helpful.

woman folding clothes

There is always laundry to fold, too.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

3. Do laundry

Offer to sit and chat with them, let them vent if they need to…and fold their laundry while you're at it.

Are they the kind of people who might be embarrassed by you seeing or handling their underclothes? Fine. Wash, dry and fold towels or bedsheets instead. Just keep the laundry moving for them.

And if it doesn't feel appropriate or desirable for you to do their laundry at their house, you can offer a pick-up laundry service, either yourself or an actual hired service. Tell the person to put bags or bins of laundry at the door and you (or the service) will come pick it up and bring it back clean and folded the next day. That's a great way to be of service without feeling like you're intruding.

man pulling food and toilet paper out of the car

Offer to pick stuff up when you're on a grocery run.

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

4. Run errands for them

"Hey, I'm heading out to the store, what can I grab you while I'm there?" is always a welcome phone call or text. Let them know when you're going to be running your own errands and see if there's anything they need dropped at the post office, picked up from the pharmacy, or anything else.

You can also offer to run errands with them. "Hey, I've got some errands to run. Do you want to join me?" They may have no desire to leave the house, or they may desperately want to leave the house, so be prepared for either answer, but the offer is solid. Even just not having to drive might be a relief if they have things they need to pick up or drop off places.

woman holding hands with a small child as they walk

Caring for someone's kids is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

5. Provide childcare

If the person is a parent, taking their kid(s) out for a chunk of the day can be a big help. Caring for yourself is hard when you're going through a difficult time, and the energy a person might use to actually do that often gets usurped by caring for others. Obviously, parents can't just neglect their children, so anything you can do to relieve them of that responsibility for a while is gold.

Offering to take the kids to do something fun—a day at the park, ice skating, etc. is even better. A parent knowing their kid is safe, occupied and happy is its own form of relief.

6. Ask what they're struggling with and focus your help there

While all of these practical household things are helpful, there might be some people who find comfort or solace in doing those things themselves. If that's the case, talk with them about what their immediate needs are and what they're having a hard time dealing with. Then focus your energies there. "What can I do to help?" may not be as effective a question as "What are you having a hard time doing right now?" They may not know what kind of help they need, but they probably know how they're struggling.

One person might be lonely and just want some company. Another person might need a creative outlet or a mindless distraction or something physical like going for a walk or a hike. Someone else might have pets they need help caring for, a garden that need tending or the oil changed in their car. Someone might even need a person to serve as a shield or buffer between them and all the people coming to offer their condolences.

Note that many of these things are basic life maintenance stuff—those are often the things that get hard for people when they're dealing with the emotional and logistical stuff surrounding whatever they're going through, and they're often the easiest things other people can do for them. A time of crisis is not a normal time, so normal etiquette, such as asking if you can or should do something rather than just letting them know you're going to do it, doesn't always apply.

If there's a specific thing with specific tasks, such as planning a funeral, that might be a good opportunity to ask how you can help. But people deep in the throes of grief or struggle often need someone to the reins on basic things without being asked to. Again, there's a good chance they feel like they're drowning, so don't wait for an invitation. Just grab the life preserver, put it around them and do whatever needs to be done to get them to shore.


This article originally appeared on 2.5.24

What is Depression?

In the United States, close to 10% of the population has depression, but sometimes it can take a long time for someone to even understand that they have it.

One difficulty in diagnosis is trying to distinguish between feeling down and experiencing clinical depression. This TED-Ed video from December 2015 can help make the distinction. With simple animation, the video explains how clinical depression lasts longer than two weeks with a range of symptoms that can include changes in appetite, poor concentration, restlessness, sleep disorders (either too much or too little), and suicidal ideation. The video briefly discusses the neuroscience behind the illness, outlines treatments, and offers advice on how you can help a friend or loved one who may have depression.


Unlike the many pharmaceutical ads out there with their cute mascots and vague symptoms, the video uses animation to provide clarity about the mental disorder. It's similar in its poignant simplicity to the HBO short documentary "My Depression," based on Liz Swados' book of the same name.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.19

New baby and a happy dad.


When San Francisco photographer Lisa Robinson was about to have her second child, she was both excited and nervous.

Sure, those are the feelings most moms-to-be experience before giving birth, but Lisa's nerves were tied to something different.

She and her husband already had a 9-year-old son but desperately wanted another baby. They spent years trying to get pregnant again, but after countless failed attempts and two miscarriages, they decided to stop trying.


Of course, that's when Lisa ended up becoming pregnant with her daughter, Anora. Since it was such a miraculous pregnancy, Lisa wanted to do something special to commemorate her daughter's birth.

So she turned to her craft — photography — as a way to both commemorate the special day, and keep herself calm and focused throughout the birthing process.

Normally, Lisa takes portraits and does wedding photography, so she knew the logistics of being her own birth photographer would be a somewhat precarious new adventure — to say the least.

pregnancy, hospital, giving birth, POV

She initially suggested the idea to her husband Alec as a joke.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"After some thought," she says, "I figured I would try it out and that it could capture some amazing memories for us and our daughter."

In the end, she says, Alec was supportive and thought it would be great if she could pull it off. Her doctors and nurses were all for Lisa taking pictures, too, especially because it really seemed to help her manage the pain and stress.

In the hospital, she realized it was a lot harder to hold her camera steady than she initially thought it would be.

tocodynamometer, labor, selfies

She had labor shakes but would periodically take pictures between contractions.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Eventually when it was time to push and I was able to take the photos as I was pushing, I focused on my daughter and my husband and not so much the camera," she says.

"I didn't know if I was in focus or capturing everything but it was amazing to do.”

The shots she ended up getting speak for themselves:

nurse, strangers, medical care,

Warm and encouraging smiles from the nurse.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

experiment, images, capture, document, record

Newborn Anora's first experience with breastfeeding.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Everybody was supportive and kind of surprised that I was able to capture things throughout. I even remember laughing along with them at one point as I was pushing," Lisa recalled.

In the end, Lisa was so glad she went through with her experiment. She got incredible pictures — and it actually did make her labor easier.

Would she recommend every mom-to-be document their birth in this way? Absolutely not. What works for one person may not work at all for another.

However, if you do have a hobby that relaxes you, figuring out how to incorporate it into one of the most stressful moments in your life is a pretty good way to keep yourself calm and focused.

Expecting and love the idea of documenting your own birthing process?

Take some advice from Lisa: "Don't put pressure on yourself to get 'the shot'" she says, "and enjoy the moment as much as you can.”

Lisa's mom took this last one.

grandma, hobby, birthing process

Mom and daughter earned the rest.

Photo via Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

This article originally appeared on 06.30.16