by Claire Perez
In March 2020, a pandemic hit. A free society was now not so free, and quarantining began. While sheltering in place, some of us thought about the possible ramifications of our new reality. Will there be food? How will we get it? This was precisely when the skill and insight of Fred Balfour entered the picture.
He and Tom Roberts began talking about local food sources and a local farmer who sells eggs throughout the year. Donna Faivre-Roberts shared that she was concerned for small businesses in the area and wondered how we could assist them. At some point, Fred suggested that our local neighborhood friends should meet on Zoom once per week to get the egg order for the farmer, Sandy. Fred or one member of the group could then pick up the eggs on Sundays and deliver them to each household. And so began the Egg group.
Once a week, on Thursday at 4 PM, we meet on Zoom to chat and take the egg order. The group of ten is a good size so that everyone gets some airtime. As with any group, though, its evolution has led to some changes in procedures and objectives.
Fred (with a little push from Claire) realized we needed space within the time-frame for everyone to speak. Modeling the FUSIT small groups, we went with a round-robin where people state a positive and negative about the week, and the rest of us put on our nonjudgment, non-problem solving hats, and just listen. This has worked well.
Over the last nine months, what has evolved is a lovely group where we meet in a place of mutual respect to laugh ourselves silly and share our latest joys and receive support for life’s frustrations under COVID. And enjoy REALLY fresh eggs.
The group works for many reasons. I think people feel validated and supported. We enjoy sharing knowledge about things such as movies and COVID vaccine rollouts. At one point, Liz Einstein got some of us involved in a postcard campaign to get out the vote.
There is great camaraderie in our group. While we didn’t all know each other well before the group started, we each had at least one friend in it. This was a factor that helped build trust. Through our weekly sessions, we have become almost like “war buddies.” Periodically, group members have spontaneously made up small gifts for each other. We have shared treats such as fresh parsley, tomatoes, moon cakes, pizzelles, and flowers. Since Fred most often takes the time to do the circuit weekly, such surprise gifts are dropped off with that week’s eggs.
We have celebrated: milestone birthdays, puppy adoptions, and the arrival of refrigerators:-). We have also emotionally supported each other during rough patches, a.k.a., the sudden passing of our beloved dog.
For the holidays, we met on Thanksgiving for dessert and for some awesome storytelling. I say awesome because Donna had us laughing for a very long time with a Thanksgiving tale of a day far away.
Christmas brought the vision from Fred of Secret Santa. Folks were game to participate, and Angela Zhang made beautiful gift tags so that when presents were delivered, the sender would not be completely transparent. Tom helped deliver packages to everyone on Dec 17 when gifts were opened on Zoom. Three apple pies were made in this endeavor to illustrate the sense of the love and warmth that was expressed.
On New Years’, we toasted on zoom. We all enjoy the growing sense of community and joy. If you want to build an egg group, try it; you have nothing to lose. Here are five tips for getting started.
1. Find a reason to meet and, if possible, support a good cause: local farming and food security. Don’t overthink this; keep it simple. “What I did with my kale this week could work:-)”
2. Bring an open heart each week and keep your expectations light. Think happy hour. I am stopping by for a drink to see what is going on with folks.
3. Have some rules but not too many: Check-in, say a positive and a negative about the week. Support one another but don’t’ try to fix it.
4. Keep the group number manageable so everyone can have some airtime…Zoom is challenging, and small numbers help.
5. Accept differences and remember, trust is hard to build and easy to lose. Be mindful of mutual respect always.