Fifteen and 20 years ago, when I was beginning to piece together a patchwork of people that supply food to the restaurant, we didn’t use email or texting. We picked up the phone and had conversations with one another, staff or farmers. When someone needed to talk, they stopped by and we talked. Farmers and fish mongers, I spoke to 2-3 times a week, if not more. We were learning to work with one another and all the variables involved in food production. I heard about the weather, fishing conditions and what was involved in that. I learned about the people that grew food, picked food, went out in their boats and I learned about their boats. I also learned about the person on the other end of the telephone, the people on my staff, their lives and they learned about me, what I did and the business of potager. Our conversations were rich with personality and connections that aren’t available through email and text messages. Those conversations and relationships have become some of my dearest friendships today.
We’ve spent years becoming friends.
I would not trade those early conversations, connections, or the time given to develop them for anything in the world. No amount of convenience or speed would be worth the sacrifice.
There are so many people over the years that mean so much to me and to the success of Potager. It happened in real conversations, connections and were so worth the effort.
I was asked to speak to a group of developers several years ago about building community. With that experience, I learned that people’s ideas of community and especially developing one are as varied as the people having the discussion. We have different life experiences and needs.
My belief is that community isn’t something you can make a decision to do and it magically happens. It’s an idea that requires commitment and effort daily. Someone or some group of someones have to lead with this vision in mind.
What does it mean to me and how does it happen? This is my experience….
Community is about developing authentic communication and relationships. It is telling our personal stories to one another, accepting each other. It is creating a safe place for these stories. It is allowing, celebrating and acknowledging our differences. It is about understanding the importance of our differences in the success of a community.
With the business of a restaurant comes chaos. Its’ busy and loud and fast moving with immediate demands. Chaos itself is highly creative. In it, people let go of their manners and blurt out their opinions and judgments. Without direction or caring leadership, this chaos can be toxic to community but with care and humor, it can also break down barriers and bring people to their authentic selves. On a night when we are in the weeds, jiggled, spanked and running, it might feel like running into a burning building as a group saving people. There’s an immediate need to communicate, listen, help and do it all quickly, directly, clearly. When it’s over and everyone is safe, the connection we feel is deep
and it is real. I got your back.
The most important idea I have, I think, is that there is a belief in something bigger than ourselves. These values have to speak to people and be bigger than money or fame to be sustainable. How do we involve everyone in these values? They have to be authentic and communicated clearly.
We learn to listen and find a way to connect to one another. We tell our stories, we show up for each other and we have each other’s backs.
Eventually, the community itself becomes bigger than the individuals independently.