At the beginning of 2017 I took over the operation of a pay-what-you-can vegan lunch café here in the heart of meat-and-potatoes Midwest America. On December first, I gave myself a daily blogging challenge to write about this café, to tell its story, and maybe figure out a little of my own story in the process. This is Post #29.
Sometimes people ask me for things I can’t deliver. They’re usually nice about it, like the person who wondered if I would continue my predecessors’ practice of including a raw-food day once a week. Or the ones who asked if I could offer a 100% oil-free meal option, or green smoothies. They were disappointed to hear that I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.
I don’t like to disappoint. I like saying yes.
But sometimes it feels better — is better — to say no.
There’s a temptation, when you’re a very small business like we are, to try to please all the people. To do all the things, be all the things, offer all the options. But really, we can’t do or be all the things. We have constraints, there are limits. And we’re not good at all the things. So I have to choose: which people, which things, which options.
Certain food preferences are more suited to a home kitchen than to a pay-what-you-can café. Raw meals, green smoothies, these are expensive things to serve, and much as I would like that not to matter, it matters. It has to matter if we intend to be around six months from now, a year from now. Our predecessors did these things, and they’re no longer here. And while I have to be careful what conclusions I draw from their experience, I think it’s safe to say some choices don’t work. Some requests can’t be fulfilled.
Not today. Not this week. Not by us.
Defining ourselves is as much about what we aren’t as what we are. Yes, we grow, we evolve, things don’t stay constant. Today’s no might become next year’s yes. That said, I want to remain true to my purpose here, my why, even as it, too, evolves. The only way I know how to do that is to keep asking, again and again, which people, which things, which options?