Trust and change…and how to arrange your bookshelf
Don’t bother to put the two parts of the title together. All they have in common is being the subject of passages I read last week that left me unsettled.
The first is from a program report and came in a highlighted box: Change happens at the speed of trust. Trust takes time and discourse to achieve. Meanwhile, don’t push for improvements. I like reversing this logic: Trust happens at the speed of change. I like trust in motion more than in discourse. I see trust more readily in behavior than in voiced sentiments.
This viewpoint was honed many years ago in Corbett, New York, a dying small town in Appalachia that needed a water line. Individual wells were failing and the town was too small to get an infrastructure grant. My group, The Rensselaerville Institute, worked with small towns to use a self-help approach to getting needed infrastructure. A meeting was set up for the residents and the Institute to explore doing an affordable self-help water project in Corbett.
I had been cautioned to go slow and build trust through a process of many interactions to generate community trust in us. A local school custodian, Reuben Merrill, who became the project sparkplug, countered that process immediately: Hal, here’s what I think. Let’s each promise the other something important we will do before we meet again. If you do, I will trust you. If we do, you will trust us. This will speed up getting safe and ample water in our homes. How’s that?
Fine, I said. Corbett residents agreed to complete a community survey and ask people for commitments to pay up to $15 per month for operating a small system. They were energized to get at least 20 homes signed up. We agreed to get our engineer to cost-out a simple system which included as much self-help as possible to keep the loan for pipe and approvals to under $100,000. We met again in three weeks—our second session. We had each kept our promise. This idea of making and keeping commitments was then codified in The Corbett Compact which we all signed. Trust began and grew quickly.
On the book front, I read about how to place books on shelves in an article called “Tidy Tales…Experts share how to organize and clean up your bookcase”. One guide quoted extensively had this advice:
“Organize all of the book spines by color and then group similar colors together: Neutral tones, warm tones, and cool tones to make it look aesthetically pleasing to the eye.” Wow. I’ll have to take my color palette with me the next time I go book shopping. I like organizing books for ease of retrieval—viewing the content as more important than the color of the cover. Another reversal.
Back in two weeks. And please let me know if you come across any passages whose logic you want to reverse.