Why am I a member of the Richmond Food Coop? In addition to a love of food, social justice, and cooperative models, I feel passionately about the power of stories. Each of us brings our own stories to the table and we build community by sharing them with one another. Food brings us together, but what we share with each other through the stories we tell constitutes a meaningful solidarity. A great example in recent memory is the Co-op Book Club where we have enjoyed great food all the while creating good memories and stories.
Growing up in Central New York where I was fortunate to have a caring family taught me the value of family and community. As my grandma would say, “We didn’t have much, but we had each other.” I agree that what is most important is having each other. Grandma Hole (yes that is my Mom’s maiden name) was the matriarch of our family. This woman was a force in and of herself. Not only could she prepare enough food for big family gatherings during the holidays, but she would also invite any person she knew to their tiny home if she thought they might be alone for the holiday. To me there was always a kindness about her that could never be replicated. During those times when we would go over to my grandparents’ house my Mom, brother, and I would always be the first to arrive and the last to leave. I realize now that this was my Mom’s opportunity to actually sit down to talk and to share what was going on in their lives before everyone showed up. I loved to sit and listen to them talk about relatives and how they were doing and “catching up” or telling stories of the past. I believe that my Mom wanted to absorb as much of her parents’ life and their stories before they were not here to share it with her anymore. We would all go to my grandparents for a meal and to indulge in those comfort foods that we enjoy during the holiday season, but it was the time and the stories we shared that made the holidays special. My grandparents were of that generation that lived through the depression where they saved everything they could but also realized that if they had the means they would always give to those less fortunate. I learned the value of giving from my family and this is something I hold dear to me as I see a world where people increasingly focus on themselves and not others.
I joined the Co-op because I believe in family and community. Our social fabric is being constantly assaulted. It is reaching a point where we might never be able to regain the sense of community, family, and empathy that is so desperately needed. This is my opportunity to do my best to mend our social fabric by sharing my life, my stories and myself. I want people to know they are not alone and that together we can mend the fabric of our community by sharing our stories and lives with one another. My grandma would be proud of me and all of us.
Thanks to Michele for providing me the opportunity to share my story with other Co-op members. I will always miss my home state of NY, but I have my new family here in Richmond with Tracy Citeroni, two dogs, a cat, and the Co-op.
-Mark Lewis, Co-op Member/Owner