I saw him staring at it, too: the nearly empty platter of boiled shrimp. Then she noticed and headed towards the table. By the second hour of the reception, it’s likely everyone had eaten some shrimp. But this was desperate — they were nearly out.
The polite thing for me to do would have been to go back to visiting or skip right over to the cocktail wienies smothered in barbeque sauce. But these were fresh-never-frozen boiled shrimp! Do I run over there? How many can I stuff in my pockets? He saw me eyeing the merchandise, and she shot a glimpse my way that said: “Back off, buddy.” It was all going to blow.
Then came the server with an entirely new tray, filled with a mound of steaming crustaceans that reached to the ceiling. Everyone sighed and smiled. She grabbed three plates and handed one each to the other guy and me. “Grab some shrimp,” she said cheerily. “After you,” he said. We all chatted about how nice the reception was and exchanged pleasantries and business cards. A sworn mortal enemy became an acquaintance.
The CFO covers about 60 counties in central and southern Missouri, so most of our geography is rural. Fifty years ago, our main streets were packed, our jobs at shoe and garment factories were plentiful, and the baby-boom generation was filling our schools. Our banquet tables seemed heaped with boiled shrimp.
Over the past half-century, though, so many of our resources have been extracted and, understandably, we have devolved into a scarcity mentality. We hold on for dear life to what we have, or we’ll lose that, too. Don’t work with that outside agency, or the community down the road — they may take away what’s left.
But what if there’s more? What if we can change from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset? Just in the last year, we have seen estate gifts in small communities totaling more than $20 million. We have seen towns rally together and fix up deteriorating properties, paint tired façades and pick up cluttered roadways. It’s hard to reach out our hands and be welcoming when we’re desperately clutching onto what we have.
Worrying about leftovers isn’t a winning strategy. We can only fill our tables by working together, reaching out and welcoming those people and organizations that aren’t there to steal the last shrimp, but bring in more.
Author Marianne Williamson said: “The key to abundance is meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.” We can continue to clench our hands in fear or open our minds and arms into a new vision of our future. I hope that vision is more than just cocktail wieners in barbeque sauce and instead includes heaping mounds of boiled shrimp.
Brian Fogle is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.