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Stone Soup and Birthday Cake

There's an old folktale about stone soup.

Two travelers arrive in a village wracked by hunger. "Does anyone have any food to share?" they ask. "Not a scrap!" comes the reply. " The travelers say it doesn't matter, because they're making stone soup.

The travelers bring out a big pot, fill it with water from the stream, make a fire, and carefully place in a large stone. As the water begins to boil, the villagers gather around. "What's stone soup?" they ask. "It's delicious, that's what! And you may have some if you like," say the travelers. "Of course, it might be just a little better with some carrots."

"I have carrots!" says one of the villagers. He runs to his house, comes back and puts them in the soup.

"Well done!" say the travelers, stirring the pot. "It's almost perfect! Of course, I once had stone soup with potatoes; that was really very good."

"Well, I have some potatoes we can use," says another villager. Off he goes, and comes back with potatoes to put in the pot.

You can guess the rest. Before long, the pot is full to the brim with onions, meat, seasoning, and other ingredients--each brought by someone different. The  entire village sits down to a feast. That's the power of stone soup.

First Birthday Party in the Plaza

This past Saturday, the Maker's Place threw our "Diaper Party in the Plaza. It's a birthday bash, with lunch and family activities for 250 people. Trenton has a high infant mortality rate. Our Diaper Parties celebrate the children who recently reached their first birthday, and are therefore no longer at risk.

In a way, it was our own version of stone soup.

We started with a parking lot⁠—our stone, so to speak—generously donated by a partner church. It's the place where our community gathers to receive diapers.

One church heard we had community coming, and they offered to provide lunch. Two more churches heard we had lunch, and offered to provide tables and chairs. Before long, others joined in, bringing birthday cake, decorations, face painting supplies, and a popcorn machine.

Community partners heard what we were doing, and brought their resources. Families in attendance  received resources from Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, Children's Futures, Womanspace, and the Trenton Public Library.

Best of all, we celebrated Trenton's one year-olds—our "guests of honor" with songs, party hats, and birthday cake. We talked about what we can all do to make sure every child reaches their first birthday. And we pointed to the abundance of God, who makes much of what we give, when given to God. 

It's what we mean when we talk about the asset-based community development and the Divine Economy of Abundance. We really can create the beloved community, and be part of urban transformation, when everyone's gifts and resources are included.