It has been a while since 1994. I have learned a great deal since then. Mine is not a story for the faint. Nor is it a story I ever want to tell my children. They too will have their own story of a future they want to see through their own eyes.
I had some tough choices to make after the dust settled. Actually, it is then, in the aftermath of when the last machete went down, that one truly aches for the yearning of belonging and community.
I had to belong. Actually - in order to survive, we all had to belong.
Even the hardest of hearts break at some point and seek a bonding community. In the same understanding, those whose hearts remain dark will walk the ends of the earth in search to find community and belonging.
The difference here is that we had to define the difference between building a bridging community, verses returning to bonding communities of days past.
Before the genocide, we had bonding communities. We came together as homogeneous groups. We looked the same, had the same cultural beliefs, values, and customs. It was natural to build walls around our common narrative of us and them. And because of this, we didn’t see, understand, nor listen to any other stories different from ours. Everything else was unfamiliar territory and as far as we were concerned, unfamiliarity breeds contempt and distance.
Today, we fully understand the values of bridging communities that bring people together from different groups. We have prioritized the collective “we”, over the individual “I.”
Naturally, we have been confronted by cynics who argue that what we hope for seems too idealistic. To them, I say, show me a cynic that has ever built a bridge, and to them, I will bare all my scars.
The stories of our collective hope in the future have allowed us to see each other, acknowledge each other, be familiar with each other, and ultimately, have empathy for each other - in spite of what we did to one another.
In coffee, there is one basic plot that turns out to be tremendously powerful. I call this the restoration narrative. It goes something like this:
“There is calamity at origin.
Undeniable forces of nature are attacking productivity, diminishing quality, and impoverishing farmers. But there is a hero among us, and we are here to revolt against this disorder. We will fight these powerful forces against all odds and restore humanity to the land.”
This is a story that has come before or accompanied most transformations since we can remember. It is the same story that most innovations are born from, resources are galvanized in, and hope is built on.
But It is also the same story that false hope is built on.
You see, we are all creatures of narrative more than we are creatures of facts and figures, however important they may be. And because of this, we have no power to replace a persuasive or a negatively visceral story with just facts and figures. The only thing that can replace a story, is a new story.
At origin, stories are a means by which we interpret the world. Stories allow us to interpret the complex and contradictory world of coffee. From the ancient paintings in caves to the hieroglyphic’s tombs in the Kingdoms of Kush, people have been telling stories since millennia.
Until now, we have been stuck with the same story that keeps on fueling the purpose of the author. And because of this, we find ourselves in a state of paralysis without a new story.
Today, there are pockets all over the world hungry for a new story. The old story has the same plot for the existence of extreme individualism and competition with each other. It pushes us to fear, fight, and mistrust each other. This theme is weakening the social bonds of society, thereby making most lives fatigued and not worth living. It is leaving us questioning parts of our industry’s worth, value, and outright livelihood.
At Stori Coffee, we have laid every brick of our business with an entirely new foundation of operating principles. To begin with, we seek to listen deeply to everyone we do business with. People are at the heart of everything we do and every decision we make. We have an unquenchable thirst in our moral obligation to see one other as equal to ourselves. Never above, nor below us; neither idealizing nor victimizing. We will always immerse ourselves in the lives of others to understand the structures that are in their way and be honest about where they may be holding themselves back.
At Stori, we have bore witness to a nation that began the process of healing itself, when people begin to see each other, through taking the time to listen to each other’s stories.
We are finally beginning to see nations all over the world, setting the table for such a day.
If we truly cultivate what we honor, we will find it in people like Jeannette from Hingakawa Women’s Cooperative, whom are all willing to tell a bold new story.