Community Soup: Individual desires and the consequences of living in community

Great River School families,

The autumn Harvest Festival at Great River school calls us to gather again on October 7th! From 2-5pm there will be music, bluegrass & folk dancing, Family folk dance instruction bouncy houses, and a 40 gallon cauldron of stone soup made over an open fire. This is a time to share the harvest of the growing season, where adolescent students will have a market for the produce (pumpkins, squash, assorted veggies) and crafts (candles, cards with original photos, maple syrup) from the key experiences this fall. 

Stone soup is a feature of this festival - and the making of the soup is as much a part of the community experience as any of the carnival or music features of the event. All families are invited to bring their own bowls, spoons, and mugs to the event, as well as contributions to the soup. All ingredients will be taken until 2:45pm, prepped and added to the soup. We raise the broth to safe temperatures for an extended time, and the resulting meal is a product of the gifts the community has brought. (Yes, we do begin with a broth that has been cooking all week, and we do have vegetables from the 6thBridge trip to Buttermilk Falls Farm) 

This concept of having what the community has brought, however, is the real theme of the harvest. We have all the gifts brought by those who are present. We have only the the gifts brought by those present.

The soup is not a product, it is cooperation. This is not a sales venture. There is no fee for soup, and there is no economic exchange around this community venture. We all gather, we all contribute, we all wait until the soup is ready. (*Usually* 4pm, but it depends on the weather, the temperature, the ingredients, the fire....) We are subject to the process, and we are together in the process. When several hundred people line up for a serving of hot soup on an autumn day, and those people connect in gratitude for a meal that has been gathered from the good earth and is a testament to our patience, to our fellowship, and to our investment in being together. Waiting. Patient and understanding, we will graciously eat together what we have brought together. Some years the soup is bountiful, and some years we each get a small taste. The breadth of the event, however, is supported at it's foundation with the ritual of serving the soup *only* after it has cooked during the festival, and under the watchful eye of the community. 

Why do we do this?

Teams are defined by the accomplishment of goals that are impossible for individuals to achieve. In our training and thinking as educators this year, the faculty are learning to identify and use the term "group worthy task". This term is the essence of what it means to bring a community together. Stone soup is a group worthy task. Traditionally in humane cultures, house or barn raising, boat launching, fence building, growing and harvesting from the field, and child rearing are all group-worthy tasks that no individual would set out to attempt alone. Why? The lightness of work through many hands is a result of being bound together in owing your hands to your neighbor because you *need* their hands in return. We are playing with fellowship at the harvest festival when we make stone soup, but there is a humane need for each other and our help that can be easily forgotten in an urban setting with the promise of Amazon NOW in your pocket. (And a note to the weary: do not mistake the economic exchange of a global economy for fellowship - friendship through a shared burden requires that we see each other, know each other, and understand that our plight is truly shared.) 

The fellowship we crave with each other comes from the experience of truly depending on what our neighbors bring. And so, the invitation is to bring something to this soup we set out to share on October 7th. It could be potatoes, squash or some other hard and long-cooking starch - just show up early to make sure your contribution is cooked for the community.  Or your contribution could be greens, tomatoes, zucchini or some other fragile fruit of summer - in which case arriving at the last minute could still add to the group meal. 

A team has a higher capacity than the sum of individual members. Teams carry out group-worthy tasks. To put it another way, a team takes the talents of individuals and raises the value of each person simply by membership in the team. A team is worth more than the sum contributions of the membership, because in the context of the team, each person is worth more.  The team catalyzes and adds energy to individual talents, giving contributions of individuals a context that is more impactful and valuable than what they could bring alone.

By surrendering individual goals to the needs of a common group, an individual will experience a deep sense of belonging and a deeper connection to the needs of others. Each team member is *necessary* in a group worthy task. We are all needed. Individuals on teams respect each other and operate within their capacities - we rely on the relationships within the group for success. Often, in a team setting, the individual will have to change the way they would solve a problem alone. Relying on inter-dependence creates a situation in which team members must prioritize the needs of others in order for the team to function.

The result? Increased security, capacity for performance, flexibility and dynamic capabilities that could not have been predicted as a sum of individual abilities. In a classroom setting, this means that the rights and value of each person in the group are recognized and necessary for the group to succeed. The experience of equity is a product of experiencing tasks that require empathy and humanity. In a true team model, individuals do not shine without the team shining first. And, as we gather to celebrate our common harvest, we practice the metaphor of stone soup together, knowing we will eat together as a result of recognizing and sharing each other's gifts.

Be well, and thank you for carrying your share of the community.