Even though much of my work is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to write, and this is the place for that. Feel free to join in the conversation. Thanks for reading.
Have you ever had an experience where your expectation of something (or someone) completely transformed before your very eyes?
This week I received a FB message: “Sue, your broccoli is ripe!” (Yes, every once in awhile your FB friends roam over your FB wall and into your front yard. I love when that happens.) To which I replied, “Help yourself!” She did not and I did not, and so, guess what happened!? Those two heads of broccoli became….POOF! broccoli afros. (Not my word, look it up: http://www.nwedible.com/2012/09/harvest-broccoli-cauliflower.html) From veggie to flower…overnight! Tonight, instead of gracing the center of my plate, the ‘fros will be decorating the center of my table, like sunshine bursting forth in a spray of lovely yellow flowers. As a broccoli-harvesting-virgin, I didn’t realize there was life after the head. I always thought that the green head of broccoli was the end of the line. This week, however, my image of broccoli has been changed forever - completely transformed. And I couldn’t be happier (albeit, a tad hungrier)!
It’s wild when you think about how much our brains love to stay stuck on the familiar - the known, what we think to be true. We much prefer knowing over not knowing, craving a state of constant certainty. How complacent we become with what is, or rather, what we think “is.”
How often do we look at the world around us and see the same old, same old? It makes me wonder how many “broccoli afros” I’ve been walking by, seeing only broccoli heads. How many broccoli plants have I harvested too soon, stopping at only floret, limiting their fullest flowering ‘fro? Even knowing this, you can guess that I will still most likely harvest the next head of broccoli that blooms in my garden. And I will do so with the new realization that by harvesting only what I see, I am limiting the blossoming of fullest potentiality.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending an Art of Hosting workshop in Grayslake, a former farm town, now known as a vacationers’ dreamy lake town. [The Art of Hosting (AoH) Conversations that Matter is an international movement to use powerful conversation processes to respond to challenges and change.] Fellow Circle Tenders came together from all over the Chicagoland area to share stories, stir things up, and harvest the fruits of our day. If you’ve never been to an AoH event, it’s a wonderful experience of engaging in real dialogue about really big questions with real people committed to making an impact in the real world.
One of the AoH processes not typically part of our daily conversation is “harvesting.” Here’s how they describe The Art of Harvesting conversations that matter:
“Anyone who plants a garden is planning for results. Whether the result is a fruit or a flower, a gardener is planning for a harvest. In the same way, anyone who plans to host a meeting also wants to get a good result from their efforts. In the Art of Hosting community, we plan our conversation design around the harvest we want to produce. We think good harvesting is one of the most potent ways to assure that the agreements and decisions arising out of conversations that matter lead to action.”
In my limited experience, AoH harvesting - aka collecting conversation outcomes - is usually coordinated by one person writing short phrases shared by small group leaders on flip charts: synthesizing great big ideas flowing from hours of dialogue into short sound bytes. Yesterday, the harvest felt to me limiting, two-dimensional; it wasn’t coming close to capturing the felt sense, the essence of our shared experiences. It was like taking a snapshot of the broccoli head, before it began to blossom. Much of what we are doing at this moment in time, is creating the new way of being, the new community. When we come up against our edges of growth or belief, we name it and move on. I spoke my truth and we all agreed that we need more creative methods of harvesting the richness of our feast. And we also agreed that we would carry the resonance of the relationships with us, despite whatever was condensed on the flip charts. At the same time, I noticed that my expectation of the people I had met just that the morning began to transform and blossom after I heard their stories, after I saw them in action, after I connected with them.
Kristy, the convener of this calling team, had acted on her impulse at the spring meeting to call us together again before the next annual meeting. She and the team had clearly been planning for this day for weeks. Not deterred by the sudden thunderstorm, she marched us from her lakeside home to a neighboring church. Plan B, no problem. I was struck by the generous hospitality of not only Kristy, but also her community, allowing strangers to use their space so willingly. She introduced us to a new checkin technique and we quickly entered the safe space of deep dialogue.
Kristy really blossomed at the lunch break when a harried woman intruded, clearly in need of help. Not knowing the area or where to direct her for support, I called Kristy over to assist. Even though she had clearly spent months planning this day, taking action on her desire for community, she disappeared for nearly an hour, leaving us in the capable hands of the rest of the calling team.
Towards the end of the day, I noticed that Kristy had returned, completely nonplussed. She had spent that time, it turns out, taking care of a neighbor in need. It really was that kind of community. I filled her in on what she had missed, including our group’s raving compliments to her for the day. Lucky me, I got to see Kristy in a new light, more of her potential revealed. Despite the gray day in Grayslake, she shined. And I harvested hope about humans being in community, truly connecting, really listening and even when it wasn’t convenient, helping each other out.
We plant seeds and expect the picture on the front of the seed packet to result. Occasionally, we receive surprising results. Something we’ve never seen before blossoms before our very eyes, if we are noticing. Blinking with disbelief and opening to learning something new we can reap unexpected harvests… and change our communities for the better.