Hi everyone - Linda here from The Kitchen Croxley. Hope everyone is well this sunny Sunday afternoon.
There's a lot going on in the news just now - the EU referendum, terrorism in Baghdad and the shootings in the US spring to mind immediately. There have been interesting political issues and leadership contests arising as part of the fallout from "Brexit" and many people seem unsure as to where we are headed in these uncertain times.
I'm no expert in politics or world affairs, but from where I sit one of the most important things we can do at times like this is to look out for each other. Sadly the referendum result seems to have set people against each other and finding a way forward that accepts we didn't all agree can seem almost impossible. Some feel that voting in a certain way means you're a certain kind of person - whatever that is. But dig a little deeper and I believe we all want what we believe to be right for our community - we just see the way there differently.
What does all of this have to do with the Coffee Shop Union?
I joined Link4Growth after hearing someone say that many of the places where people used to make connections no longer exist. Living in the same street as your family, having a job for life, frequenting the pub on the street corner, visiting the library or community centre. Link4Growth brings people together in their local coffee shop, where they get to know and trust each other, talk and understand each other better. If this happens all over the country - in every community - surely it will impact society and lead to better understanding and agreement. Coffee Shops can become community hubs, improving communication and reducing loneliness and exclusion.
Linking Coffee Shops in our Union is already making this more effective. Those of us involved are sharing stories, support and suppliers. We're holding events that can then move onto another CSU member's premises, and customers already like the idea of somewhere that comes with a guarantee of service with a smile and locally sourced ingredients.
Two concrete examples this week when I met with Jackie from LJ's Coffee House in Bushey. Over a coffee - what else? - we discussed the issues I've been experiencing with a food supplier. Straightaway I have the number of another company that I can talk to - who have been reliable and good value.
We then moved on to Mr Kitchen's absence at the cash and carry. How had I not realised they now deliver - saving us time and petrol? Off to set up an account - thanks Jackie :-)
Working together in this way, building a network of independent businesses all aiming to rebuild community, is surely where we do best to focus. Do we really want to be at odds with our neighbours when it's so much more satisfying to connect and get to know others, working out how together we can be the change we'd like to see in the world. If things do go a little pear shaped for a while I like to know there are people who have my back, that I can depend on, live and work with.
So thanks Link4Growth for everything I've learned and gained so far and here's to much more to come!