Well folks, summer is here, and so are some changes!
I’m writing to let you know to expect a few changes in some of the things you see here on freeteaparty.org, as well as on social media. The biggest change is that you will begin to see more from me in regards to many of the other ways that we pitch-in places we visit. You see, I’ve realized that it’s not just serving tea that is the mission of the Free Tea Bus, but also to share in relationships everywhere we go. These relationships, which I see as the highest form of currency, are relationships with people and relationships with things that we use and consume like tools, food, energy, and other resources. They are the often-overlooked elements, which truly define how we operate in the grand interconnected and interdependent ecosystem of earth.
Some of my favorite things to share will be some of the projects that I work on, like fixing and building things. These have a tendency to be related to small-scale, off-grid, DIY, sustainable, and/or mobile living systems. They also often are providing a small service that makes a big difference to someone. Some examples may include solar power, salvaged building, small-scale energy or water systems, creative reuse, etc. Some of what I post may also be related to food, with topics such as wild harvesting, homegrown and local, dumpster diving, food preservation, and more. I also want to share info about real skills, which are the foundation to all kinds of relationships.
As many of you know, one of the main philosophical elements to the tea bus is the idea that sharing builds relationships. I discovered this more than ten years ago on Hollywood Boulevard as I started to share free cups of tea with strangers. I found that when I took money out of my interactions they became much more genuine. Over the years of serving free tea, as well as practicing all sort of less-calculated and non-calculated forms of exchange like barter, sharing, work-trading, etc., I’ve realized that humans evolved in sharing communities. In these communities, relationships held the highest value. It is precisely because of the realization that I want to start sharing the whole of this ethos from our life on Edna Lu The Tea Bus to you all online. Many people get to experience these things in real life with us, and I guess I just wanted that to translate into the online experience.
So, without hesitation…
One of our major updates is that we are in Thomas, West Virginia for the summer helping to open a solar-powered natural food store called Front Street Grocers and Kitchen (with a wood-fired oven in Bake Alley). I’ve been hired (using a less-calculated form of exchange that includes money, but also food, showers, and other resources) to help do a salvage remodel, including lots of wood-working, as well as hunting for used equipment and other things. Ally has been hired to be the Startup Manager, helping to get lots of the organizational elements in place, as well as apprenticing with me as a builder.
Part of the reason that I took this work on to begin with was because… well, to be honest, I needed money. I need to make about $4000 to $9000 per year in order to fulfill some needs that I haven’t found a way to build relationships for (cell phone bill, vehicle registration, vehicle insurance, auto parts, some food, etc.). For the first 8 years of serving tea, I traveled the west. During that time, I built many relationships. I could go most anywhere on the coast and find community, work (paid or not), and other resources I needed. In those relationships, I had security. When I needed a little bit of cash, I simply worked a little, and moved on. As I’ve traveled off the west coast, spent time in the SW, Texas, Maine, North Carolina, and places in between, I’ve come to realize the power of relationships, and especially relationships that have been given time to grow. This showed to me in a huge way when our community came together to raise $3500 for Edna’s busted transmission in the Spring. I struggled a little in Maine as my cash was tight. Same in North Carolina. I realized that it takes at least 3 months in many places to find good work (meaning: work within my moral framework that excites me). Throughout the struggle, however, I always somehow managed to find enough paid work to get by… But in all honesty, in my ideal world I’d rather just fix and build things for free. But this isn’t my ideal world, and as such, I was seeking good work that was at least partially monetarily compensated.
And alas, I have been so fortunate to have that work now. It’s a project I believe in and is within my moral framework. The folks we’re working with aren’t just co-workers, they’re community that we share meals and time with. It’s a business that operates in the confines of a monetary society, but with ideals similar to ours: like selling in bulk to reduce waste, using solar energy, building with salvaged materials, offering local foods, and even some discussion of some alternative economic options.
It feels good to be refilling the wallet, spending time with good people, and participating in some very fulfilling salvaged building.
Of course, we’ve been serving some tea as well. The first weekend we arrived in town was the yearly art festival, ArtSpring. This weekend-long festival was all ‘round town, so we set up on the street to serve tea in front of a local art gallery, The White Room. We also setup on the old railroad grade during 4th of July weekend when folks from all over the area come to eat, drink, and watch the fireworks. It’s been fun getting to know all the kinds of folks here in WV, from hipsters to rednecks, farmers to artists, kids to adults.
Check out this short video from #americancultureis about the Free Tea Bus:
So, I hope y’all enjoy some of the new material to be posted. It’s really just an extension of some of the DIY tea bus projects I post sometimes…
Let me know what you think of the new changes.