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Green Tomatoes, Neighbors, and Social Capital

Written by: Bill Sherman on Wednesday, 10 September 2008, 9:23 AM

Yesterday, I traveled from my home in St. Louis to a client onsite in Vancouver, B.C.

When I fly, I’m typically pretty busy. I’m either reading documents, preparing reports, or catching up on much-needed reading. It’s usually my quiet time.

During yesterday’s flight, I struck up a conversation with a couple from Philadelphia. As a result, I heard a wonderful example of local social capital. The couple was traveling on their way to a two-week Alaskan cruise. The elderly man was a passionate gardener (he reminded me of my own grandfather), and he had several vines full of green tomatoes that would ripen before they return.

He hated to see them spoil, so he began a massive cooking adventure of fried green tomatoes. His wife described a kitchen full of cookware, plates, seasonings and oil.

Then, this weekend, the man went around and handed out plates of fried green tomatoes to his neighbors. According to the man: “they were going to go bad on the vine; I hated to see a summer’s worth of care remain unenjoyed.”

I asked him who he took the tomatoes to, and he described a long list.

  • There was the person across the street who would be collecting the mail while they’re gone;
  • The family whose teenage son mows their yard;
  • The neighbor who will be caring for their cat; and
  • The elderly lady who hosted them for dinner a few weeks ago, etc.

His list kept going while we flew westward. He and his wife were able to come up with over 12 people with whom they’d shared their green-tomato bounty. Surely, they were well-connected with their community and liked people.

Rather than let the tomatoes go rot on the vine; they turned them into an opportunity to create social capital.

6 Responses to “Green Tomatoes, Neighbors, and Social Capital”

  1. BNI Blog » Green Tomatoes, Neighbours and Social Capital Says:

    […] loved this posting from Bill Sherman.   For more examples like this I would recommend that you subscribe to his […]

    September 11th, 2008 2:54 am

  2. Tom Sander Says:

    A nice story. I’ve linked to this from our Saguaro website under Social Capital in Organizations (even though this is really an individual-based initiative, not an organizational one!).

    September 11th, 2008 9:30 am

  3. Tom Sander Says:

    If you want the URL to the Saguaro page, it’s at:
    http://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/socialcapitalorgs.htm#Communities

    (You need to scroll down a bit…)

    September 11th, 2008 9:33 am

  4. Kare Anderson Says:

    Bill
    that post is a palpable reminder that the high tech of social media is best experienced with the high touch of face-to-face conversation. My father is a frequent photo-taker at events.

    He prints them, puts them on blank cards and gives them away in small packets, with at least one photo that directly relates to the recipient. So many times he has seen his cards, sent by someone he knows, to someone else he knows. There they are, sprinkled through his world – with handwritten messages. Proudly displayed on a shelf. Physical reminders that someone cares. Social cap. Dad’s motto, “GrateFull”

    Your taking the time to listen to that couple makes their actions more momentous for them and inspires me to make some time this weekend for some nourishing S.C.

    September 11th, 2008 11:40 am

  5. Richard Ellis Says:

    I liked this story enough to want to leave a blog even though I have plans on October 3rd.
    It’s good to know there are plenty of like minded people out there who care enough for each other to watch over each others property while they are away. One good turn deserves another as this story quite rightly demonstrated, and of course links nicely with BNI philosophies.

    September 11th, 2008 11:00 pm

  6. Rudy Parlak Says:

    lovely story, it is all about creating the communities and mantaining those relationship, I think That’s what is dissappering from our communities!!!!!

    September 11th, 2008 11:36 pm

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