Today is a Baha'i Holy Day, Ridvan, which means "paradise". As a Baha'i, I am supposed to take today off, but what is a "day off" when sheltering in place? I am at home on a beautiful day and my son has just learned to read. He reads aloud to little sister so sweetly.
But I should be working right? Kombucha sales just tanked. Buyers at our major stores like Whole Foods and Nuggets are scattershot, unable to predict what will run out and when. Will I lose hard earned shelf space to bigger brands because I told my sales guy not to risk exposure by visiting stores during lockdown? I can't tell if that's being a responsible citizen or an irresponsible business owner. I suppose the question is, is it essential?
I have had a few weeks to sit with that question. I want to believe that small businesses are essential, not just for the jobs they support, but the hope and purpose they inspire. It's not about money, it's about value. I've seen many business owners struggle, the mythical living wage always out of reach. Capitalism is out to eat its own tail. You can't be successful without inadvertantly creating your own competition and raising your own rent. It's taken this system shock to finally stop the rat race and reflect.
It brings me back to the feelings and thoughts I had during the 2008 financial collapse. There was an openness and drive amongst food entrepreneurs back in those days that I feel resurging in this moment. For years I was too busy being busy. But now I am connecting This week brought kombucha and supplies to groups that are feeding the unsheltered and making PPE to donate to hospitals. I traded kombucha for delicious food, meeting and consulting with other artisans like Obour Hummus, Liminal coffee, Formosa Chocolate and the vegan donuts farm. There is finally time to connect with other business owners and listen and learn together. That's how it was when I first began House Kombucha and it feels like a new beginning right now.
In order to survive this we have to hold up hope. We have to have a vision of an abundant economy that gives more than it takes. It's going to be a journey but a correction is possible. Might real estate crash so hard that the restaurant owners inherit the buildings they'd beeen propping up this whole time? Might the local CSA farmer finally start making the profits they deserve more than anyone? Is the neighborhood liquor store now carrying fresh produce and bread?
With the 2008 crash, the governments printed money and propped up the same broken system. With this calamity, all of the inequities and problems of the former system must be addressed. We won't survive without global healthcare and cooperation. At last, the push for global progress will be advanced for the sake of our common survival and not just for corporate gain. And finally we have a neutral standard by which we can measure progress, the standard of public health and science.
While this is very hopeful on the global level, on the local level I can relate that losing your job and feeling stuck at home and unessential is terrible. The thought that restaurant chains will replace your favorite eateries and our jobs will be replaced by AI-run fulfillment centers is scary. So we have to hold hope, that the small business economy will survive and thrive through it all and there's a bigger plan at play that will make it all worth it.
Ridvan is a time for joy amidst sorrow. It commemorates the time when Baha'u'llah was exiled and His followers came in droves to say goodbye. He turned their sorrow into joy by sharing with them a powerful message of God's Promise to humanity, that peace and unity will prevail and God has not left us without guidance or a plan.
This is that day when we draw on hope from the unknown. Cheers to everyone who still holds a dream and to everyone who's just hanging in there and staying alive during this immense time.
"As ye have faith so shall your powers and blessings be. This is the balance – this is the balance – this is the balance." - Abdul'Baha
** Fun Fact: Sun Blossom was originally named Ridvan and was inspired by the fragrance of the orange trees that blossom in the Holy Land and the white tea that that was recommend by the Bab.