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Community Building, Wisdom & Cabbages…

September 5, 2010

In organising BizCamps, support and networking groups and now Carlingford Forum, the mission has been to create a safe space and to start a conversation that gets us thinking about ourselves and our communities in a new light.

Think of this place as a fertile field. Our children are the seeds. Their yield will sustain our communities for another generation. Will they grow in seasons of dearth or abundance? Will we move on, leaving overplanted fields stripped of nutrients? Or we will dig in, hoe, clear the rocks, enrich and prepare a better field to ensure the future.

We can clear the plots defined by our acres and that is good. How much better would it be if we collectively prepared our own and helped our neighbours? Village wide, county wide, country wide and island-wide.

My grandmother was a simple woman. She shared her wisdom with “old sayings” that come to me often. Her response s were predictable.

  • to my pained experience of mastering the sewing machine or kitchen gadget: “it’s a poor workman who blames his tools”;
  • on my frequent whinges about my lot in life: “offer it up”;
  • on any matter of importance: “two heads are better than one, even if one is a cabbage”.

The last was confounding. Was my opinion as valuable as veg?

Creative problem solving can’t happen in a vacuum. That was and is the most important lesson she offered.  It is what I seek to offer via this blog.  “Who does she think she is?” is the message I often hear when I raise issues. And the answer is: “No one and everyone”.

Once uttered, thoughts, threats, fears – all lose their power.  No more nighttime monsters under the bed. When we give voice to an issue, we throw open the windows and let in the light. The situation may remain scary – but we are no longer alone in the dark to imagine the demon, or to slay the dragon with limited weapons at hand. We’ve called in reinforcements. Reinforcements with a fresh perspective. They may be unarmed ones or ones who clear the debris obscuring the escape, the ones who resupply, or the ones who rework the strategy.

Perhaps, even a peacemaker who will whisper our demons to sleep.

So lest I be misunderstood, I am merely an observer and a facilitator. At best I seek to point out that we are undermining our collective potential. At worst, think of me as a mild annoyance. Often, it is my ignorance that is displayed – and your feedback serves to educate me.

The agricultural metaphor is not born of poetry but experience.

A client – twenty years ago, was delighted that we’d produced a resume she’d struggled over for months. She smiled when I abbreviated my grandmother’s thought – “two heads are better than one”.

“Even if one is a cabbage.” She startled me, I’d never heard that part elsewhere.

“Did it make you feel as dumb as a vegetable?” I asked. “No” she said – pooh-poohing that sentiment.

Her grandmother always generously finished the thought with, “because if all else fails, you can eat the cabbage”.

Food for thought. Wise women.

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