How often does one find herself in a pristine, pastoral setting milling freshly “nubbed” corn and having the wisdom of a nationally recognized seed-saver imparted upon her? For most of us, the answer would be not very often. This flowery scene is the stuff of idealists or out-of-touch dreamers who would have us forsake our Facebook and iPhones for an antiquated way of life, right?
I argue that this is not the case; I say that authentic places and experiences are making a comeback with “normal” people because their value is being realized and rediscovered by a new generation. An amazing characteristic of authenticity is its tendency to be created from humble beginnings, which makes it accessible and known by people from every strata of society. It is a quality that is nearly impossible to design and that no amount of poorly applied funds can force into existence. Authenticity comes from truth; to a discerning eye and mind, truth is instantly recognizable and its perversion abhorred. [i.e. why places like this give me the creeps: click here for heaping dose of inauthenticity]
A quest for truth is, and has always been, the fuel behind young people’s passion for change.
This truth, pardon the pun, is what I believe to be at work behind the burgeoning number of social entrepreneurs cropping up all over the globe. Corporate America has achieved wonders for us as a nation: a high standard of living, our formidable position as the world’s foremost superpower, and an economic system that secures the freedom to work and reap the benefits of that labor (though some would argue that 2008 changed all that) The problem arises when people wake up and feel like they are living in a dishonest world filled with inauthenticity. As it is today, the workplace for young people is often monotonous and devoid of stimulation. For me, life is about more than traveling from box to box in your little box on wheels. College students are graduating, and more of them are declining to become cogs in the machine, choosing rather to strike out in search of something real. Wanting to experience something real, it’s a novel idea, huh? but for many of us, it’s actually something that requires a conscious effort.
The core of Kalu Yala is the idea and the struggle to create something real. In my pursuit to help achieve that goal, I try to seek out “real” experiences and places, glean from them some of the essence that makes them so, and then inject what I have found back into Kalu Yala. I recently found one such place.
I have never met a more professional, passionate and generous staff than the one I encountered on my recent trip to Blackberry Farm. Thanks to my dear friend’s sister, Beth McCabe, I was able to visit the Walland, Tennessee farm and shadow some of its incredible team. What I saw and learned there was beyond inspiring, and I only hope to bring a kernel of it back to Panama.
At Kalu Yala, we call the Internship Program the community before the community. In the coming months we will be building upon what exists, and adding substance and truth to the Internship Program. In short, we will be laboring to create something real.
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