Borrow a bowl! Why yes, I’d be happy to. Why borrow a bowl? Because I had something to celebrate. A community helped, which meant the celebration would be more than just me. That sounded like a party, a bash. Got problems? It is good to have a supportive community. When’s the best time to build community? Before you need it. When’s a great time to reward community? After it has come together without expectation of reward. And repeat.
The good news is that it looks like I get to keep my home. Maybe. Really I am in a trial period that may result in a mortgage modification that may have a probationary period, but those are details. As long as my business can generate enough income (and a few extra hours consulting with paying clients helps a lot ), I’ll probably end up with a modified mortgage that is about half of the original. This was something to celebrate, particularly with the community of friends who’ve helped me through.
One of my clients is building and reinforcing community with a simple idea. The Six Bowls Project, instigated by Penny Bauer, is ingenious. Six bowls made by local potters, carried in artisan baskets, tucked in with words from local poets, and hosted by local businesses are borrowed for weekend events for free. Borrow a bowl. Carry it home in the basket. Invite some friends around a community theme. Share the literary contribution. Share the food. Then clean the bowl, share the stories, and return the bowl and the basket and the words for the next person. Then, after six bowls have catalyzed a year of stories, auction off the bowls for a charity that helps clothe and feed the community. Brilliant. My role? Be a sounding board, then feed the Facebook page daily. I get paid to pass along stories. Nice job, even if it is more editorial than managerial.
So many of the stories are parts of grand ventures: trips to Africa, groups that have been together for years, generations supporting other generations covering every age. My story was about the fact that I could stay put. But too many others are embroiled in that same struggle that a bit of good news should probably be passed along. (And a friend just told me he may be able to save his house by learning from what I’ve gone through. Imagine that feeling.) The email invite list was long (and incomplete as always) and the party was to be as simple as ever.
“Been to my parties before? Same plan. I’ll put out some munchies and wine. No need to bring anything else but if you bring something then you know there’ll be something there you want to eat or drink.”
“Casual. My place isn’t that fancy (though I think the view is marvelous and a good reason to get here before sunset). Mostly chit-chat, and usually some dancing before the end. You folks are entertaining enough that there’s no need for games and such. If you want to dance, I’ll have a boombox and some cds, but you are welcome to bring better equipment and music.”
But what to put in the bowl? So many of the other stories have impressive recipes. I love to cook, but those recipes set a high bar. Then I looked at what came with the bowl. Patricia Duff wrote the meaningful backstory to the bowl. (Every bowl gets some bit of literary eloquence.) She called it an Everyman bowl (by Lyla Lillis). Cooking for every one is difficult because we are a diverse crowd by choice and necessity. So, I decided that, rather than try to navigate dozens of diets, I’d put enough different things in the bowl to please (almost) everyone. Sausage in the middle, flanked by carrots and celery, fronted with cheese, and backed with brownies. (By the time the party started I had to switch out the sausages for smoked salmon. Long story. Burp.) And if no one ate them, I’d have good leftovers.
The bowl wasn’t alone. There was also the basket which was empty without the bowl, so I dropped in a sign: “Fill the basket with ideas.” Few had the time to write anything, but one idea was dear. “We should start a progressive party – take this to someone else’s house every couple of hours.” Marvelous. Maybe next time.
The party was so good that we didn’t get around to dancing. (Though I admit to missing that.)
Then it was time to bundle the bowl back into its basket (after washing it). Hang onto the memories of the party and my friends and what they’ve helped achieve.
Community is built from within and by more than just one. Penny’s idea for Six Bowls is simple and powerful; and succeeds because so many people participate. Other individuals like, Drew Kampion of Drewslist, work on their own spending incredible time and effort creating vital services that ultimately reciprocate (and if you’re on drewslist have you sent him a donation lately?). Organizations like Good Cheer are more like what many expect, large non-profits officially providing an otherwise non-existent safety net. The beauty and the power of such support come from the efforts of individuals taking simple ideas, filling needs, and leaving egos behind. Most of their work is unacknowledged off-island. Do the same work in some urban environment and end up on the national news. But here, we get to see their efforts first hand, and appreciate them greatly.
Here we get to see what community can do for community – and it always starts with individuals.
Frugal people understand that personal finance is about value, which only sometimes involves money – though mainstream media makes it sound like money is the only thing of value.
If you’re on the island; borrow a bowl, donate to Drew, cheer on Good Cheer. If you’re not on the island; look around to see what’s there, and if nothing’s there know that you can make it yourself and make community at the same time.
Nothing is certain so it makes sense to celebrate what we can, how we can, and include as many as we can. And maybe there will be more dancing.