I invite Members and those who are considering becoming Members to see the cooperative as the birth of a great good place. This “third place”, a sacred space, a fellowship, a coffee shop, perhaps, or an occasional restaurant is where community lives. In The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenberg argues that “third places” – where people can gather, put aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation – are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the grassroots of democracy. This is a place where people feel comfortable with one another, where differences in social and cultural backgrounds recede into the background, a place that is frequently framed by good food and easy chairs. This is a place where folks feel comfortable talking with someone they’ve never met before. These spaces heal the isolation many of us feel, the rifts between cultures, generations, and income levels that divide us from ourselves and each other.
Some of the divides in Santa Fe are old divides, divides that have existed for generations and have not been healed. Many of us want our organizations and communities to harness the collaboration and innovation that comes from wide-ranging expertise, diverse experiences, and varied identities. All too often, however, the boundaries are borders— barriers that limit, confine, and lead to wasteful conflicts and counterproductive divides.
Why do some of us feel a sense of isolation? A theory proposed by some scholars is that Americans have an intuitive sense of individualism. In nearly every aspect of our lives we try to assert our independence as we proclaim our desire to be independent. Goodwin, the author of the book titled, “The American Condition” states that the American condition is one of “unfreedom, alienation, and fragmentation” and that condition comes from “the dissolution of community, shared social consciousness, and moral authority”.
In Spanning Boundaries, consultants at the Center for Creative Leadership argue that here are two fundamental, universal, and powerful human forces: the need for differentiation, divergence, and uniqueness and the need for integration, convergence, and belonging. Each of us must establish our own positive identity. A positive identity grows from respect for ourselves; respect for ourselves fosters respect for others. A positive identify allows us to be unique and, at the same time, belong. This is at the core of democracy. For only by respectfully listening to our own inner voice and allowing our voice to be heard, will we learn to respect the other’s voice. We may not fully understand the roots of our isolation, but many of us recognize that boundaries can be limiting and separating. They also may represent frontiers: the location where breakthrough possibilities reside. What explains the difference between limiting borders and limitless frontiers? In a word, leadership, our leadership, leadership that fosters engagement and empowerment. I believe that it is only by participating that we create value. As we create value, real value, our sense of self-worth is bolstered. We become people who are worthy of receiving gifts, the gifts of family, of friends, of our community. The gift of community is the joy we feel when we engage in meaningful civic activity
I come from Brooklyn. Some call it a melting pot, others a mosaic. Whatever it is called, it is a place where peoples of many cultures, generations, and incomes come together and live in close proximity to one another, joyfully, respectfully. Where Chinese Norwegian restaurants and block parties flourish, where people who live in houses that have sheltered many generations of a family’s Brooklyn lineage join with newcomers to host Halloween parties and sing Christmas carols, together. Brooklyn’s eclectic culture allows its residents to cultivate deep personal and social vitality. Santa Fe strives to be such place, but we are divided by the city’s geography, divergent incomes, and patterns of immigration. Too much is unspoken, too much is unhealed. Let us come together to heal the divide, let’s bridge the North and South sides in a “third place”, a place where all can enjoy the pleasure of good health and the bounty of good food and good fellowship.
Join with me in celebrating the birth of a great good place, the Santa Fe Community Coop.