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On Conscientiousness and Community

 

Being in the coffee business can help give one a sense of belonging to the larger global community.  This was not how I was raised, but greater consciousness came gradually. A chance meeting of a coffee farmer from Zimbabwe in 1992 had me paying closer attention to the eventual land reforms of the late 1990's. The Rwandan genocides in the spring and summer of 1994 felt closer than I thought possible because of my connection to coffee. My marriage into an immigrant family and their stories of exile from Uganda under threat of violence. The tsunamis that hit southeast Asia in 2004 became more personal from a connection to coffee-growing communities in Indonesia. Recent volcanic eruptions in coffee-producing areas of Guatemala and Hawaii. Gradually the entire world became my community. Our responsibility. We are all connected and need each other. There is no "them" only "us". 

This is why it is unconscionable to me what our government and fellow humans are doing at our southern border. The person to person violence being committed in the name of safety, rules, religion, sovereignty or just politics is nauseating and offends every fiber of my being.  How does one on either side of the violence ever recover from this? How does someone ever feel peace or safety again? 

We started Highwire with the vague and broad intention of doing "good". At the time we saw this very locally in terms of providing good jobs. Paying more than minimally required by law. Healthcare and paid time off. Giving voice to people to improve their workplace. Caring about each other. Supporting other small businesses. Reducing our carbon footprint. Donating to our schools and community organizations. And for the most part, those are the forms our modest efforts to do good have taken. 

With the horrors taking place on our border and the attendant suffering they are causing our fellow humans we have to continually ask more of ourselves. How do we show up as people who want to see more kindness, more justice, more compassion in the world stand up against those who would actively harm or dehumanize others? I wish I had better answers than I do. I feel at a loss right now. So small and powerless. But we have to do something. We have to be examples of hope and courage in this world. So we'll try.

This week, Highwire Coffee will be gathering funds to donate to groups working for justice along the United States/Mexico border. We will donate a percentage of every cup of drip coffee and bag of our Conscientious Objector blend to these groups with the intention of amplifying the heart and will of everyone who cannot sit silently while such wrong is being done in our name. 

Respectfully,

Robert Myers

on behalf of everyone in the Highwire Coffee family.

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Valuing the human element: Or what makes any of this worthwhile

So much of what is in the air lately speaks to a disconnect between people. Lack of empathy, compassion, kindness, and respect are everywhere causing suffering to so many. It's overwhelming. 

In the face of this sometimes helpless feeling, it's worth returning to what we can control. Ourselves, and how we want to be in the world. As business owners, Highwire is an extension of who we are and our values reflect how we want to be in the world. 

Rich, Eric and I want Highwire to be the kind of place where people can do what they love for a living and be supported and respected for it. We know that the best coffee (like anything that brings real pleasure) comes from caring. Caring on the part of each person in the long chain of coffee production. From the farmer to the person who prepares and/or drinks it. The teacher and the student. The craftsperson and the customer. The employer and employee. Mindlessness, selfishness, cynicism, or laziness can ruin everyone else's work and the opportunity for connection, pride and pleasure are lost for that moment.

We inhabit the role of a professional and care enough to become good at what we do for a living. This serves the larger goal of pleasure and creating small moments of connection around a cup of coffee or tea. Every day for every customer and each other. When we succeed this is deeply rewarding.

We value the human element of everything we do.  We ask this of ourselves and those who work with us. To be brave and vulnerable enough to care. To invest ourselves in getting better at our work. To see the person across the counter and recognize our shared humanity. To make each other feel safe and supported. To experience moments of connection. These things make our work feel worthwhile and are a fragile balance that we work to maintain. 

It is painful to read recent stories of once-admired figures' transgressions and the suffering of their victims. It is also painful to see the vengeful glee of others who see an opportunity in the suffering. It is my wish that each of us uses these moments of learning for humble self-reflection, healing, and support for those who are in pain. To see and connect with each other as humans worthy of compassion and respect. The whole reason we're here in the first place.

 

 

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What's this all about? Values.

Strictly speaking, the world did not need another coffee roaster in 2011. There were already so many places that took pride and care in preparing a cup of coffee. True, the satisfying balance between the signatures of the roaster and the farmer hadn’t been accomplished in the Highwire way, but there was lots of decent coffee.

So I admit, Highwire exists at least in part because of a personal need rather than a market need. The personal need to answer a voice in my head that has always distrusted business to do the right thing. We need this to be different. I believe in the power of voting with one’s wallet, and judging one’s actions rather than words or images. We have run Highwire with these ideas in mind. We want Highwire to be worthy of our employees’ and customers’ trust and loyalty.

Rich, Eric, and I are very different people, who approach work and life individually. We do have some key qualities in common, otherwise, we would have never come together! First and foremost, we care deeply. We care in a way that is personal and political. We really want to change and improve the world. But we’re also pragmatic. We know our impact will be limited. We insist that our beliefs and our work be aligned in a way that can do good, however modestly.

A year ago we wrote a company vision and values statement that we wanted to serve as a commitment to ourselves and our employees. It’s been understood between the three of us for years. We want to make the values explicit. It’s a promise to try and live up to our aspirations. It’s a promise we take seriously. It goes deeper than making popular decisions or winning a branding/pr contest. It’s a sincere intention to use our business as a platform to amplify the good a coffee company can do for its community.

In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing more here about the values that drive this modest experiment in entrepreneurship. I believe we’ve found purpose in driving toward these ideals and hope you'll find them as inspiring as we do. 

Sincerely,

Robert Myers

Co-Founder

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Compostable Coffee Bags on the Way!

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In Remembrance of Donna & Em

We lost two lovely, vibrant members of the Highwire family to the Ghost Ship fire.

If you'd like to support the two memorial funds for Donna and Em, please click on the following links.

Thank you for all of your support and kind words. We're so thankful to be a part of such a caring, strong community.

Donna's Memorial Fund

Em's Memorial Fund

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