I feel it’s not a far-fetched statement to suggest that we live in a culture of “more, better, more." We all have desires for things we don’t currently have, which isn’t inherently a bad thing. We long for more income, more time, more travels, more love, and more things. We wish for better jobs, better relationships, better lifestyles, better health, and better lives.
These wishes and longings are perfectly normal. Most of the time, they even help drive us towards our goals and take steps that we might not have normally taken in order to achieve them. In the process of setting our sights on the things we want, though, it is scarily easy to forget what we have in the present. Finding balance and gracefully dancing between aching desires and the mindfulness of now is truly an art that too often takes the backseat in our day-to-day lives.
A Perspective Shift in Being Thankful
I acknowledge the beauty of my own present blessings that have shaped gradually over this past year. At the beginning of 2019, I was 100% guilty of being someone who didn't appreciate what I had. I only focused on what I didn’t have. I was in a job that felt like it was slowly suffocating me. I desperately wanted to have a different job. I totally bypassed the reality that having a stable job allowed me to provide for my family. I wanted to buy the perfect house for my family, because it felt like I was failing if I didn’t, and I was blind to the wonderful apartment we lived in. At the time, I couldn't see how improved our housing was compared to when we were younger.
Those are a couple of examples specific to me, but we all deal with feelings like these every day.
Since then, I have been fortunate enough to realize I needed to change my perspective. And I've been able to do something about it. Now I find myself in a new job with a great company that makes a difference daily.
Lessons of Gratitude from Fair Trade Coffee
It would take a concerted effort to work for Sweetwater Organic Coffee and not feel fortunate and grateful to be here. In the 6 months since I started, I have learned so much about the specialty coffee industry and why we are on a mission to improve it.
I have learned that some coffee farmers have had to abandon their farms, because commodity market pricing (which they have no control over) keeps their earnings so low, they can't provide for their families.
I have heard stories of how cooperatives like Maya Vinic from Chiapas, Mexico, got started when individuals came together after Pacifist members of their community - men, women and children - were killed in what became known as the Acteal Massacre. They formed a farming co-op that has helped the community survive, becoming a successful supplier of high-quality coffee locally, nationally, and internationally.
And I know that there are many more stories like these where people at all levels of the coffee industry are struggling to survive.
At the same time, I've also heard about the tremendous hospitality coffee farmers have shown us when we visit. They've invited us into their homes to stay. They've cooked meals for visitors with what food they had and provided them with shelter and company. I’ve seen the pictures of the dirt floors and smaller dwellings filled with smiling faces and a true sense of unity. These are some of the hardest working people in the world who absolutely want “more” and “better” just like you and I, though we should recognize that the scales of wants versus needs differ greatly between us. We can all learn something from such humility and perspective.
Connecting Producers and Consumers
I've also learned how coffee drinkers are so important to small-scale farmers. After working my whole life in multiple, different businesses, I understand the important role customers play in sustaining a business. But it is often difficult to see how a customer can impact a producer who is hundreds of miles away.
At Sweetwater Organic Coffee, we know with certainty that each pound of coffee purchased by our customers impacts the lives of coffee farmers. The more coffee you purchase, the more money goes back to farming communities.
Because our trading relationships are fair, direct and transparent, your purchases help strengthen a sustainable supply chain that works in favor of coffee farmers. We are grateful for every opportunity to serve our customers, which in turn serves farming communities worldwide.
These lessons and the interaction with customers, coffee farmers, fellow Cooperative Coffees members, staff, and colleagues- all working together for a common goal- help me keep my perspective grounded in the day-to-day. I am grateful to all of you, and wish everyone a happy holiday and happy times with those close to you.
Dennis Ostheim Jr. became the general manager at Sweetwater over the summer. The Sweetwater crew is grateful to him for his hard work and positive energy. Thank YOU, Dennis!