I just met with my husband to have lunch at this little place in town called the Great Harvest Bread Company. It’s a bakery-cafe; it’s quiet and homey. It smelled like deliciously fresh cinnamon bread when we went in today because that’s what they’re featuring right now. Their food is wonderful (if the menu is somewhat limited I don’t mind because they have this one sandwich I get every time, no matter how much I think about trying something new). They give their leftover bread to homeless shelters. There’s reclaimed wood in all their decor. This mission statement (in the photo) hangs on the wall.
As we were sitting there enjoying our lunch, I looked around and noticed only a few other people inside, even though it was pretty much the height of the lunch hour. We were talking about work and living well and how to combine the two and as I looked around, I noticed the joyful exuberance of the plucky young cashier and the smiling baker with the funky bandana hairdo and I thought: This is the kind of place that ought to be open, where people come and do what they do to support this mission and to live life. Then I was overcome by a sad feeling that with the the low number of customers on this particular day – what if it’s like this every day? – they may not be able to afford to remain in business in this location. That would be such a shame.
I work for phenomenal people in an amazing organization (Missional Wisdom Foundation). We recently opened a cooperative commercial kitchen in Dallas and we are still looking for local small business start-ups to rent space in it. We talked about the cost of such a project and the overhead that goes into running spaces like the kitchen or this little cafe. I wish we could all do what we love and didn’t have to worry about turning a profit. [Side note: it amazes me sometimes how things I would absolutely hate to do, there is someone else out there who is happy to do it; and vice versa. There really is something for everyone.]
Our culture and our world are hung up on profits and numbers, getting ahead and success (usually defined by size of accounts). Everything becomes about rubrics and measurable results instead of community, and scarcity instead of abundance. I blame Henry Ford and the assembly line: lots of product made cheap and fast. The unintended consequence of that becomes: you are only worth what you can turn out in the assembly line in a day. If you can’t work (if we as a business don’t earn money from your existence), you have no value. In other words, we ironically dehumanize people for being human instead of machines. I’ve done it to myself, too, thinking my inherent worth is tied to my ability to make money – which, by the way, makes me a miserable failure by most standards.
Sometimes I like to dream about a world where money doesn’t matter. I think about a place where people are free to follow their passions and no one commands power over anybody else through any means: financial, physical, governmental, religious. All our current systems seem to be designed to take advantage of the vulnerable and to reward power, which becomes a vicious cycle.
What if I refused to live like that? What if I insisted that my life be one with a mission like Great Harvest’s? If I wrote out a personal mission for my life, what would it be? If I were able to actually live it, what would that be like? What if money had nothing to do with it?
It is wonderfully compelling.