021 – Blackberry Revolution

I want you to meet a friend of mine, who keeps bees in the mountains of North Carolina. We met on a message board, and I could tell she thinks like me about bees. Sometimes you can just tell. It might be what a person says; it’s more often what a person leaves unsaid. Those quiet blank spots, like the gaps in a puzzle piece. We could fit.

She wants to sell her honey by the bucket; I think you would prefer it in a jar, so I bought her bucket and put it in a jar for you.

When we met to make the exchange, she was accompanied by a Suburban full of people. Parents and siblings. Lots of siblings. We chatted. I tasted the honey (it is excellent) and used my spectrometer to verify that it is ripe enough (it is excellent), and agreed to buy it. I handed a wad of cash to my friend. She exchanged looks with her father. “It is up to you,” he said. She handed him the money, “I want this to be my contribution.”

Friend, I was so deeply offended by this interaction. Angry! It shook me up the whole ride home from the mountains, and into the next couple of days. You see, in my family system, money always goes the other direction. From parent to child, from adult-power to youth-weakness. Children don’t contribute, they consume. Parents live to give, and children use and store up energy and get ready … to leave. Children grow up and go, they use that stored up energy and money to start a new life independent of any claims of the family system. The happiness and fulfillment of the individual are of prime importance, and they are being raised to be independent.

In my friend’s family system, children contribute. From a young age, they work not only chores, but also ventures which are intended to bring resources into the family. Not to the individual, to the family. The youngest cares for chickens, and sells the eggs, and the money goes to the family. Another sibling raises cut flowers and sells bouquets, another tends the goats and processes the dairy products. My friend keeps honey bees, and the products of her work are contributed to the family. And from childhood, she is valuable to the community. Her contributions matter to everyone, and she is intrisically supported by the system when she wants to grow and improve.

So to me, this is the most wonderful honey in the world. Magical even. It wants to crystalize rapidly, so you will probably need to warm it in a pan of hot water more than once before you use it all. But it is my participation (and now yours!) in an alternative family system which is even sweeter than the honey.