Monday, November 21, 2016

Stone soup and making new friends

Those who know us personally would agree that our home is an open door, where the bar and kitchen are for everyone's enjoyment. We always love having people over, no matter where we are, which usually results in making solid friendships fast. Yes, on occasion I push food like a Italian grandma, and drink like a sailor on leave, so what. Yes, we may consume way more calories together than alone, who cares. Yes we might get tipsy from time to time in our moments of happy togetherness, that's the point. Being part of a community is easy and natural, yet so many people find it a difficult task to be part of one.
   I would like to share a wonderful fable that my mom frequently told me when I was a little boy. My relatives in Germany would know their own versions of this fable but the core tenants remain the same. Here is the story, as I was told, in a nut shell:

Two men were traveling, by foot, across the country looking for work. 
As dusk was setting in, the travelers decided to set up camp just outside a small village. 
They were broke, had nothing to eat, and were quite hungry, so they asked each of the smiling villagers for some food. The travelers were as polite, as could be, when they asked, "Would you happen to have a carrot?" They also asked other smiling villagers if they had a potato or salted pork fat or other vegetables, and each time the smiling residents of the town responded by saying, no. 
Dejected, the hungry men went back to their camp. One of the men was quite sad when he asked, "Why are such happy people unwilling to give us food?"
The other man said, "Let's fill our kettle with water and a stone from the creek."
Soon the fire under their kettle was raging and the water was boiling the lonely stone. 
The men played music and soon started to laugh. 
The curious villagers, one by one, came to the young men and asked, "What are you making?"
The more confident man stood up and said, "We are making a magnificent stone soup and you are welcome to have some." He went on to say, "If we just had a carrot, the soup would be perfect." So the villager ran home to grab a carrot. He then said, "If we had a potato, the soup would be filling." So another villager ran home to get a potato. He said the recipe would be just like his mom's, if he had some salted pork fat. Yet another villager ran home to grab some salted pork fat. Before you knew it, each of the villagers ran home to get something for the soup. In no time the kettle was full, the music was playing and everybody was happy. At the end of night when everybody was full and the last drops of soup were being spooned out, one of the villagers said, "We had a wonderful time and that was the best soup ever." 
That evening the villagers and the travelers alike learned the recipe for making friends and it was called, Stone soup.

While sharing a portion of my culture, and my mom's wisdom, I dedicate this entry to the many suburban moms who have been writing us, as of late, about their frustrations of modern life. I have read stories where kids no longer play in the streets or in their yards and that most of the kid's activities are organized. Some  of the moms even write as if they are in solitary confinement instead of a neighborhood. Still others write of how their neighbors seldom wave, as they drive by. As hard as it is, and as frustrated as you are, try to make your own community. Open that door, invite the neighbors in. Most will say no, some will come and the lucky ones will be your friends. As my own mom often said, "The most delicious meals aren't even about food, it's about the people you are sharing the food with." Most importantly, don't forget that your favorite best friend ever, was once a perfect stranger. Making friends can happen again, and it can happen often. Be open and inviting, you won't regret it. 

We love hanging out with our new friends in Nicaragua.


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