My recent ruminations about sharing began with a news story about Christians and Muslims sharing a Christian chapel, bled into a story about the murder of three students over the sharing of parking spaces, and are permeated by the daily challenges of managing The Plant, a diverse eco-industrial park.
The art of sharing begins in childhood. As a short-lived only child, I did not have to share my parents or anything else until my little brothers began to arrive. I recall learning at school that if you had an apple and your friend did not, you should cut the apple in half and give them the bigger half.
At the dinner table, I learned to stay my appetite for second helpings until the boys had taken their share. Ditto for thirds. These early lessons explain my obsession with leftovers (no one else wants them, so they are mine, all mine!) and a tendency towards sneaky eating, resulting in a lifelong struggle with the scale.
In my professional life, the diverse hive of activity at The Plant is rife with sharing challenges. When the farmers build their Spring planting beds, tractors hurry back and forth across the main drag, leaving tracks of red clay on the asphalt. The winery fills the parking lot with polyester-clad tasters, industrial aromas of insecticide and biodiesel permeate the air, and the massage therapist strives to provide her clients a pleasant-smelling, quiet experience. On at least one occasion, a swarm of bees left the hives to colonize one of the offices.
It requires open communication and diligent surveillance to keep all factions reasonably satisfied when what one business needs to operate is in direct conflict with what another requires. Fortunately, we are all up to the task. Bob has helped this effort immensely by tackling the issues head-on and putting in place community institutions such as FAC in his greenhouse. Friday Afternoon Club is the perfect way for tenants to unwind after a busy week, strengthen friendships and chew on the topics of the day.
Obviously small, communicative groups deal with diversity in the way that larger or more factionalized groups do not. The news is full of stories about failed relationships between families, neighbors, countries, ideologies and species. Human disregard for the other life-forms that share planet earth is the ultimate example of inadequate sharing protocols.
Last month, North Carolina’s Duke University made international news when they “canceled plans for Muslim students to sound the traditional call to prayer from the school’s iconic chapel tower amid threats of violence and a backlash from anti-Muslim groups, conservatives and Christian leaders.” Despite the chapel having been shared between Christians and Muslims for decades, apparently, broadcast prayers was over-the-top. Having lived with daily broadcast prayer in Africa, I was happy that line was drawn.
On Tuesday, ten miles away in nearby Chapel Hill, a dispute over sharing parking lot spaces led to the execution-style murder of three young students who happened to be Muslims. This story also received global coverage. I couldn’t help but sense a connection between these two indicents. The consequences for not working out problems, can be deadly.
As a result of these musing, I’ve come to two conclusions about sharing:
1. Keep it small because large groups don’t share well.
2. Communication and compromise are the keys to a long life.