The first impression the Food Co-op gives is a warm, inviting, wholesome and liberal place. It’s apparent that this is where locals come together over a common goal; to consume foods that are better for the body, earth and local community.
I got that magical feeling too whenever I visited the MFC. That is until I started working there.
My first impression of the Co-op was a refreshing contrast to my Christian and conservative childhood cultivation. The Co-op still does provide that contrast. But, with time and familiarity, anything can lose its charm.
With that loss of charm I’ve begun to find ties between the Co-op and the church it diverged with so much upon introduction. Further consideration forced a startling, but exciting conclusion: the MFC and Church are unmistakably the same type of entity.
Similarities stem from the communities fostered by each entity. Both institutions are physical locations where people can come together over a shared set of values.
The church’s values are based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, which are promoted and preached to improve day-to-day living. The Co-op’s values are based on the values of wholesome, organic, fairly traded foods and ethical business practices, which will improve and enrich day to day life.
The Church and the Co-op are two different institutions, but each congregate over a set of values that promise to help to improve their members’ livelihood.
The Co-op’s community is stronger than that of a regular grocery store because it is a place to socialize with others who hold the same values. (This is also one of the reasons why I think the Co-op has been successful in the poor economy; sales continue to grow each year of the recession). People walk into the Co-op to fill their cupboards with food that will help them live healthier lives, on terms that make them feel good about their choices.
Christians walk into a church to stock up on spiritual advice, to surround themselves with others who support their lifestyles, and to feel good about themselves. It’s really the same type of feeling, just different core values.
I even have found that at each community there are the same types of people. These include a core group of well off members, the occasional shoppers and worshipers, the passionately opinionated, families, youth groups, anyone looking for a positive environment.
With the territory of of an open community comes an open invitation, which draws the outcasts too. The odd ducks of society find their way into the Co-op, just as they do at a Church. One week we had a young couple make a day-home out of the Co-op’s deli. They stayed over eight hours a day, nursing away a cup of coffee and a newborn baby.
There’s the lonely elderly that come in for the basic need of human contact. The physically and mentally sick come in looking for a cure via organics or Jesus. The homeless seek these locations out for shelter.
Whatever your vice, it’s what makes you feel good that matters. But, it was good for me to realize that my institution may not be that special.