I had an interesting experience the other day that really made me think more about the extent of the effort ahead of all of us committed to promoting the life benefits of tea practice. It also made me appreciate more the frustration that Alex Miller expressed a week or more ago in a comment on the Tea is Prized Above Food in China post, about the difficulty he has been having in getting people to appreciate tea.
I belong to a local Rotary Club (a charitable organization) as one of the ways I fulfill my commitment to be of service to others. Although we live in a small community (6,000 city; 22,000 county), it is very unique. The county is predominantly an agricultural county, producing much of the apples, pears and cherries in the country, but also has a growing presence of quality wine vineyards. In addition, we also happen to be smack in the middle of one of the most spectacularly beautiful areas in the country (a federally mandated National Scenic Area – picture above is view from my house) and have an abundance of top notch outdoor recreational opportunities that attract people from all over the world. This influx of people has also created a demand for very high end dining experiences which we seem to have more than our fair share for such a small community. As a result we have an interesting mixture of conservative individuals from the agricultural community (some families dating back to the 1800’s) as well as more liberal, progressive individuals, all considerably sophisticated in their tastes. Our Rotary Club is close to 150 people strong and representative of this interesting mix within the community.
As part of our fund raising methods, we each have the responsibility of coming up with some items to auction off at our lunch meetings each week, the proceeds of which go into our funds for the different charitable projects we sponsor. Most of the time people auction off local wines, golf or sports items. Last week was my turn, and I decided I was going to offer a beautiful Tetsubin pot and 2 wonderful teas, all of which were worth approximately $200. When it came time for the auction, I went up to the podium and gave some background about the history and quality of Japanese Tetsubin pots, as well as the 2 teas I provided. Well, all I can say is that everyone just stared at me like I had 2 heads. It was a real eye opener in terms of peoples’ awareness of tea and the value they put on it in their lives. Fortunately, one member bid $150 and was pleased with his purchase even feeling he got a deal in the process. Epitomizing what I now consider to be the general attitude, another member approached the winner and me while we were speaking and half jokingly commented that he was planning on bidding himself, but when the other person bid $150 there was no point on his continuing since it went way past the $10 he was going to bid.
So here is my point in writing this post. I would like to generate a discussion with everyone sharing suggestions on specific ways we can all help to further educate and promote tea and tea practice within our communities and beyond. I would love to hear what other people are doing in their own lives currently, but I would also like to make this a creative brain storming session where we really put our thinking caps on and come up with new, innovative ways to get the word out. Don’t censor your ideas, just let them flow. We can all sort through them and pick our top favorites afterwards. As an added incentive, T Ching will even throw in some wonderful tea to the person whose idea is voted the best. I look forward to the creative juices flowing.