I woke up this morning and decided to do something different.
For a long time now, I have been frustrated with how much money I spend at supermarkets that are part of massive, ethically dubious companies.
I promise myself that I will try an alternative, but I always find myself back in the capital S ‘Supermarkets’.
When I really think about this I don’t like the answer I get.
The truth is that I like how calm and ordered they are. I like how, most of the time, I don’t really have to talk to anyone. I like how few choices I have to make.
On visits to Preston Markets, which is the kind of place I would rather imagine myself shopping, I have felt overwhelmed. How do I know who to buy cauliflower from? I mean there are at least 7 different shops selling it, how would I pick? And the people, so many people awkwardly moving past each other and getting in each other’s way. And then the conversations with the deli staff I have to have to get my filo pastry…
I have found myself deeply resistant to engaging with all these things. And that really sucks. Because I know I want to spend my money and my time in a place like the Preston Markets.
Last night, at Campfire, I set an intention for myself, something special I wanted to happen for all of us as a result of being together. I decided I wanted to welcome everyone, to remind them that they belong, but more than that…I wanted to invite everyone to welcome each other. To reach a little beyond what they might otherwise have done and help someone else feel welcomed by connecting with them in some way.
This seemed to really work. I watched that little barrier that we can put up at times get lowered. I saw people taking care of each other simply by connecting.
At the end of Campfire someone came and spoke to me and told me how excited they were that someone else had shared some of their paintings…they told me that it reminded them of a thing they always did with their sister, how they wanted to do that thing…and also how they used to play an instrument and how they felt inspired to pick it up again. We chatted about that space between the thing we want and doing the thing we want. The little habits we have that get in the way. And how in the end you just have to ‘do the thing!’.
And so, this morning when I was about to head to the ‘Supermarket’ I decided to do the thing. To go to the Preston Markets and grab the couple of things I needed. Even though it was more complex than the alternative, it was the thing I wanted. So, the complexity was worth it.
On the way there I had a thought. What if I approached this in the same way I would encourage someone to perform at Campfire? What would that look like?
For me that would mean I would lower the bar.
I decided I didn’t have to actually shop at the markets. I would just go there and get to know the place a bit better. Have a walk around and understand how it all worked.
I have to say this went very, very well.
I arrived and found that on a Sunday morning it is all reasonably calm.
I walked around and found not as many of the fruit and veg shops were open.
I walked through all of the ones that were and got a feel for the different places. They are all quite different in their tone, they seem to specialise in a particular thing.
I checked out the price of cauliflower at all of them.
Then I went and found a deli I had been to once before, walked past and got a feel for if I liked the look of it.
Then I went and did some shopping. I bought more than I thought I would (but not too much), even found a bakery for some bread. At the end of it all there were a couple of things I couldn’t find – so I went to the Supermarket and got them.
As a result, I spent 90% of my money at small businesses. That’s the thing I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
When I went into the big S to get the last of the things I realised that these places have been cleverly designed to wean me off interacting with staff, designed to make it easier and easier to grab things I don't really need.
Which is why I had to really consciously choose another path. One that feels better on all levels…but that takes a little effort and even a little discomfort.
Maybe some of the people at Campfire last night had this little moment when I invited them to welcome each other, I imagine someone did. Because we have been trained, largely by our choice to use social media in the way we do, to avoid actual contact with people.
I hope that what it looked like happened is actually what happened. That welcoming each other opened the door for each of the people at Campfire to feel welcomed.
Because then everyone who decided to come along, even though there were a million reasons why ‘staying at home’ was easier, did the thing.
And when I did the thing…it felt great. So, maybe, doing the thing felt great for them too.
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