Friday, May 20, 2011

60% Chance of Participation

Back in the fall of 1975, the second year we were at Sandhill Farm, Annie and I spent a couple weeks helping a local couple in their 70s (Jo Pearl & Eva Grover) harvest and process their sorghum crop. A big day for them—with our volunteer help—was seven gallons of finished syrup. (In contrast, 35 years later, we crank out about 75 gallons of syrup on an average cooking day at Sandhill.) Helping the Grovers that fall was how we first got interested in sorghum and we parlayed that modest beginning into our main agricultural cash crop.

One of the endearing things about Eva was her
idiosyncratic tendency toward malapropisms. For example, when it looked like rain, she might report that, "There was a strong chance of participation." Though Eva was often saying something different than she meant, I am reminded tonight that even her accidents might come round to serve...

• • •
The Fellowship for Intentional Community is hosting an Art of Community Day in Chicago tomorrow at the main facilities of Jesus People USA at 920 W Wilson Ave on the north side. According to the forecast there's a 60% chance of rain. There's also a 60% chance that we'll have more than 30 people arriving with a hunger for how to get more community in their life. I live for such days.

(If you read this in time and are casting about for something interesting to do on a rainy day in the Windy City, there's room for you drop by at the last minute tomorrow and live with me.)

As far as I'm concerned, one of the most fun things that FIC does is host events, which are chances for participants to get both information and inspiration about community living. While we want people to be excited, we also want them to be realistic. Thus, we offer folks the nuts and bolts—as well as a taste of the guts and jolts. Community living offers tremendous possibilities for leveraging a better life, yet it also comes with large challenges for making it work well, and FIC makes a serious effort to deliver the molasses and the sulfur in appropriate measures.

In addition to offering my standard workshops on consensus and conflict, I get to do a new thing tomorrow: moderate a panel discussion on Generations, where we'll have two panelists in their 20s, two around 40 years old, and two north of 60. Each will have five minutes to talk about how they relate to community (emphasizing what they've learned looking backward and what they're wanting looking forward), and then we'll open it up to questions and comments from the audience. While six speakers means I'll have to keep a close eye on air time (there will be a 60% chance of people being reined in), I look forward to plying my craft as a facilitator to keep things moving along and on topic.

Part of the reason I love events is because it's one of the best ways to get up close and personal with our constituency—the people for whom we're gathering information about cooperative living. Tomorrow I'll get plenty of first-hand evidence about what people who want community care about. It's an opportunity to reset my gyroscope and test to see if what I have to offer is still what's needed. It's also a chance to cast the net for new energy to join the FIC circle of community fanatics. In other words, it'll be fun on multiple levels.

With the perspective of 2020 vision, there's probably only a 60% chance that in another decade I'll still be reigning as the Fellowship's main administrator (because in 2020 there's a 100% chance that I'll no longer be in my 60s). I figure it's never too early to start planning ahead for a cooperative transition. Maybe one or two of my successors will be in the room tomorrow. Exciting!

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