Learning From Worms
This summer I fulfilled one of my long-time life ambitions of becoming a worm farmer.
I started modestly, with a plastic tub in the basement, some newspaper, and a colony of 1,000 red wrigglers.
Before too long, my little guys had settled in and had started making beautiful compost. Overall, the whole thing seemed pretty simple – just making sure they had the right amount of food (not too much, not too little, like Goldilocks), keeping the bin damp, and occasionally adding some eggshells to balance the pH in the bin.
Everything was going well, so this winter I decided to up my game by adding 2,000 more worms, in hopes that my colony could keep up with more of my fruit and vegetable scraps.
I added the new worms to my bin, stepped back, and waited for the magic to happen. Instead, everything came to a grinding halt.
Rather than eating more, my worms stopped eating altogether. The rotting food started attracting fruit flies, and some of the worms started trying to run away!
It turns out that worms – like most of us – are easily overwhelmed by transition, even when it means more of a good thing.
In the last few weeks, quite a few of our mentor teams have been walking through the process of saying goodbye to a mentor and welcoming a new one.
When we have sat with these teams to anticipate these transitions, of course there is a lot of focus on how to say goodbye to the mentor who is retiring or moving and how to make saying goodbye less painful for your youth. An equally important part of the transition is how the team welcomes and integrates a new member.
Like my worm bin, each Braid team is its own little ecosystem, and every ecosystem is sensitive to any type of change, even those that add more of a positive thing.
We often see these moments of overwhelm when our youth first meet a team of three mentors. Many of our mentors have observed this as their teams launched, and they may be experiencing it again as they introduce a new member to their team.
In these moments of newness and the turbulence that is natural throughout transition, we do all we can to make sure everything stays as steady and optimal as possible, so everyone can thrive.
In the case of my worms, I was able to take some concerted measures to adjust their environment: buying a pH meter, carefully monitoring of their moisture level, and grinding up and freezing their food to make sure it was extra digestible. All of these things worked together to get them back on track, and I’m happy to say that they have started eating again, slowly but surely.
We love it when our teams are rolling along with everything going well and seeming easy. But there are times when our little ecosystems need some extra care and attention, and we all have to work together to make that happen.
At these times, team facilitators are the “worm farmer,” helping teams evaluate what intentional steps they need to take to restore and maintain balance. And each mentor has a unique and important role to play in keeping your team healthy and thriving.