Stone Soup Moments

What are Stone Soup Moments and how do you know that one has occurred?

The soup created by Bev Webber, a Red Seal trained chef, and served at the Unitarian Church [of Calgary, Canada] community roundtable was corn chowder. But it was actually a Stone Soup.

The Stone Soup story according to Wikipedia is an old folk story in which hungry strangers trick (invite?) the local people of a town into sharing their food: an atypical crowd-funding scheme that benefits the group through combining their individual resources.

Margaret Thatcher is quoted as saying there is no society, only individuals. Such a world is drastically represented in the post apocalyptic story The Road by Cormac McCarthy, in which civilization has devolved to scatterings of isolated or raggedly connected individuals looking primarily and exclusively to their own interests. In the Stone Soup story, the villagers move from this paradigm of poverty experienced in fear and isolation to abundance brought about by sharing and experienced in community.

What unfolded at the Unitarian Church community round table was a profound experience of tangible abundance . . . a Stone Soup Moment. As the soup was enjoyed along with homemade bread the participants shared their gifts, connections and passions:

Janet Melrose offered her horticultural and community gardens expertise as well as her connection with local food networks.

Jane Perry offered the gifts of the numerous choirs that rehearse at the Unitarian Church for new members to join or as entertainment for community gathering and events.

Bev Webber and Pat Hansen and Myrna Schilling spoke with satisfaction and memories of laughter stirred up in the kitchen cooking meals which could be frozen and provided to those in need, as part of the Caring Cooking Connection Group.

And then there was passing mention of the myriad of programs offered by the Unitarian Church including Movies with Meaning and the Green Sanctuary program that provides environmental education. As Pat Hansen, a new participant at the Unitarian church says they don’t have a lot but they do a lot.

They don’t have a lot but they do a lot!

And there was more!

As all these ingredients were added to the pot, there was an extra spice, a special something, as the participants shared their imaginings of what new thing might come to be, the possibilities of their combined generosity.

One idea, which made eyes light up, was the thought of a travelling lunch program . . . a pay what you can, help as you can, lunch program served in rotating church and community spaces in the neighborhood. Providing isolated older adults or on the edge-stay at home parents or the underemployed with the opportunity for strangers to become neighbors over a bowl of soup. The idea is not that one group will feed another but that people will gather together to feed each other. Is it all about food? Often, yes! Because community connections and belonging seem to be all tied up for human beings around food.

A second possibility for new connection was in the gift of story simply shared, without blame or guilt. Danielle Webber has been hanging out with youth connected to Siksika Family Services down the road and invited that organization to the community roundtable. Janet Water Chief vulnerably shared that they host a Stampede Breakfast every year and no one comes. There was a pause around the table as everyone took a breath and then the brainstorming began; compassionate responses, trying to find ways to create a more robust network around this First Nations community in the city.

How do you know that a Stone Soup Moment has occurred? When people arrive they are reserved, hidden and waiting. When they leave, faces are open, eyes alight and there are smiles and laughter as the group rides the anticipation of together creating more connection.

This article was originally posted on the website of New Scoop, a Calgary-based news co-operative publishing Generative Journalism. Images and text appear here with permission. From top: [1] In the kitchen with Unitarian Church of Calgary members; [2] Community Garden at the Unitarian Church of Calgary. Home image image: Queen of Subtle




About the Lead Author

Sarah Arthurs
Sarah Arthurs
Sarah Arthurs worked as a therapist, college instructor, parent educator, community developer, generative journalist, and pastor, and she is taking all she knows about community and entrepreneurship to create new co-housing neighborhoods. She and her family have lived at Prairie Sky Co-housing Co-operative in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, since 2008. In explaining the concept behind co-housing communities, she points to a description from the Prairie Sky website: "Some people call them a return to the best of small-town communities. Others say they are like a traditional village or the close-knit neighbourhood where they grew up, while futurists call them an altogether new response to social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Each holds a piece of the truth. Co-housing is a concept that came to North America in 1988 [and] describes neighbourhoods that combine the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living.” To learn more about Sarah's work with co-housing check out her website Cohousing Connections. Sarah is bringing together developers and homeowners who are excited about the co-housing lifestyle to create new co-housing neighborhoods. She is working on projects across Alberta and is available to work on projects in Canada. In observing an evolving co-housing niche augmenting the use of church properties or repurposing those properties when they need to be sold, she says, “There is a wonderful alignment of values between cohousing and faith traditions which have in common the commitment to ‘Love your neighbor.’” She has a B.A. in Theology, a Masters in Educational Psychology and is a Registered Psychologist. She has worked as a therapist, college instructor, parent educator, community developer and pastor. During 2012, the UN declared International Year of Co-operatives, Sarah was the Alberta Coordinator for the International Year of Co-operatives with the Alberta Community and Cooperative Association.

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