Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Take Over the World the GRIT Way

By K.C. Compton


Tags: GRIT staff, Ogden, generosity,

KC ComptonLast night I found myself gnashing my teeth once more over the poisonous political atmosphere in our country, the fury erupting in Haiti, the insanity of our financial situation and other things that go bump in the night, and in the process of sorting it all out, I wrote a note to a friend. What I said sort of popped out and surprised me, but now that I’ve articulated it, I think it makes perfect sense: GRIT needs to take over the world.

Yes, I know. It’s a bold statement, but please, hear me out. Here at GRIT, our values are all about hard work and pleasure in simple things. We’re about community and self-reliance, in just about equal measure. We talk about how to feed ourselves, grow things, build stuff, get along with each other and say a holy “Gee whiz” at the amazing intricacy of the natural world. And that’s just what’s between the pages of our magazine.

Even better is what goes on here behind the scenes. Get this: our staff gets along and works out differences. I know. I know. Amazing. When things get rough, we have conversations and figure out ways to do better.

Now, within the GRIT staff itself, we have the comfort level of somewhat similar backgrounds: We grew up in small towns or on farms, we went to church and were in 4-H, FFA or FHA, had some experience doing chores we didn’t want to and some sense of celebration with our families and communities when the work was done.

But we work for a company with a couple hundred people here under the same roof, and not everyone has that same history. We live in a relatively conservative state, one that the national media would have us believe is intolerant and impossible for anyone who isn’t white, politically conservative and religiously fundamental. Daily, we put the lie to that assumption.

We have white people working here, black people, Hispanic people, Asian people. We have Christians of various flavors—Protestant, with several subdivisions (Baptist, Freewill Baptist, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, Community churches, etc.); Catholic; Jewish; Buddhist and a few employees who might be described as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The staff includes straights, gays and who-the-heck-knows; liberals, conservatives, arch-liberals, arch-conservatives and maybe a few commies or anarchists who just know how to keep their mouths shut (doubtful).

When a long-time employee recently experienced a devastating medical situation and used up all her leave and financial resources, no one asked what church she attended or if she followed a particular political orthodoxy. We just started organizing raffles and potlucks and other opportunities for employees to support her in unofficial ways. Last year, we did the same with another employee who had a baby so premature it was a medical miracle that she survived. Prior to that, another employee’s daughter passed away suddenly, leaving him and his wife with an infant and three older children to support on a custodian’s income. In each case, we rallied ‘round, made up a bunch of food and just started doing what we could to assist them past the rocky parts.

We’re like that here. Quietly, matter-of-factly, without the need for trumpets blaring and news cameras focused on how generous we are. We take care of each other.

We don’t argue about politics, religion or sex in our break room or in our individual work areas – and believe me, for some of us more opinionated types, that occasionally requires restraint. We let each other be, we get along and we get an unbelievable amount of work done. Not only that, we actually like each other.

I think it’s a model the rest of the country would do well to follow. We’re happy to share.

kc compton_2
2/22/2010 9:22:34 AM

Thanks, Robyn. One of my abiding memories of Arizona was when I stopped there on my first cross-country, solo road trip and was gassing up my old Plymouth Fury (which my dad thought was so much better a choice than that cute little Carman-Ghia convertible I'd had my eye on). This guy got out of his truck and strode into the station to pay for his gas and I almost hit the deck. He was wearing two bandoliers, each full of bullets, criss-crossed across his chest and a pistol the size of my Dust-vac in a holster below his waist. Very Clint Eastwood, very spaghetti Western. Except that this was the early 1970s in freakin' Arizona. I looked around to see if there were a movie crew in the area, and thought for sure the next sound I'd hear would be gunfire from the Seven-Eleven Corral. Turns out, he was street legal there. As long as we can SEE that cannon you're packin' ... "Arizona: The Don't Mess With Me, Mister" state. :=] --KC


robyn dolan
2/20/2010 8:53:32 AM

You pretty much said it all. I can think of several organizations that would benefit from such a "corporate business policy", if you will: Congress, the White House, the UN, and several church organizations; the list could go on and on. But then, they wouldn't get it anyway. Keep up the good work. I think Alaska must be a bit like Arizona - the wild west! Indescribably beautiful in places, and many of the people very survivalist.


kc compton_2
2/15/2010 9:43:56 AM

Ha! Yes, Susan. Midwest manners are legendary for a reason. I was in Alaska a few years back for a bike ride (rode the old Denali highway from Goodwell to Payson -- at least I think that's the name of the towns) and found Alaskans to be nice as well, but significantly more rowdy than your average Kansan. :=] Alaska was so beautiful, I ran out of ways to describe how beautiful it was ("very, very, very spectacular" just doesn't have the ring of poetry to it). I'd love to go back sometime and do that ride again, this time actually TRAINING for it. --KC


susan_7
2/12/2010 6:41:47 PM

Gee, Anchorage drivers sure could use a lesson in midwest manners! I've had the opportunity this year to slow down a bit and take my time in everything, and I love it. I see more opportunities when I have more time to think. Thanks for the inspiration! Susan (Close the the Earth in Alaska blog)


kc compton_2
1/25/2010 9:27:34 AM

Hi Susan, Thanks for the good word. We're glad you're blogging for us, too. I had one of those "nice-off's" over the weekend. I came up to a four-way a little after the three other people. A guy in a big sedan waved me on, but I knew I didn't have the right of way, so I just waved him back. I think it really offended him, so he just hunkered down and waved me again. I figured we could all just sit there all day, glaring at each other in the nicest possible way, or I could go out of turn and get on with my life. What was so funny was that the other two drivers just sort of sat there watching us instead of saying, "Well, enough of this nonsense, I have things to do ... " Happy Monday, all! --KC


oz girl
1/22/2010 5:55:36 PM

Your last comment made me chuckle KC - a complete nice-off. LOL This was a fantastic post, so refreshing to read. I've always been completely dumbfounded why people in this big ole world of ours have so much difficulty just getting along. Why can't everyone be nice and helpful to each other? There's just so much hatred sometimes. Grit sounds like an awesome place to work. Sure wished I lived closer to Topeka. ;-) But honestly, I'm just glad I was asked to be one of Grit's bloggers. What an honor to stand amongst such a great group of people. Susan http://oz-girl.blogspot.com


kc compton_2
1/20/2010 4:30:37 PM

Besides ... we live in the Midwest. We're all so nice here. (Sometimes too nice. You should see us at 4-way stops: "You go ahead." "No, YOU go ahead, I think you were here first..." A complete nice-off. :=} )


kc compton_2
1/20/2010 3:58:46 PM

@Cindy--that's it, isn't it, being willing to listen without preaching or needing to dominate the other person into agreeing that actually, we ARE wrong and they are right. We do talk about politics and other topics some, but we sort of have a "gentleman's agreement" (and gentle lady's, too) to be civil. And the expectation from our bosses that that's just the way we do things here. --KC


cindy murphy
1/20/2010 3:32:00 PM

Oh, I'd like to raise my hand and say that I too, love my job. It's not just the job itself I love, but also it's the group of people we have working at the nursery who making working there so great. It's a diverse group, same as GRIT's, KC - different ethnicities, religious beliefs, with different political views and sexual orientations. And we all get along and even LIKE each other! In fact, I adore them. And when we get our work done, we even discuss politics, religion, and all those other issues often considered taboo. Because really, avoiding them does not mean they aren't there. It's listening, without preaching, and a willingness to accept that there other viewpoints and beliefs than one's own that allows people to work together in harmony in a world so diverse. Very few things exist only in black or white...and seeing only those two colors makes the world quite a boring place. Sometimes even a scary place. Great post - wouldn't it be wonderful if the whole world took notice!


vickie
1/20/2010 3:08:04 PM

What a great place you have to work-it's so nice to be in a place where you don't dread going to work because you dread talking to someone! Great post vickie


kc compton_2
1/20/2010 8:46:39 AM

Thank you all so much. Yep, it isn't always easy to get along, but in the long run, it's so much better to let our personal, ego-driven stuff take a back seat to just getting the work done. And Drew, I know what you mean about a couple of people who can change the entire atmosphere of a workplace--been there! The values here come from the top down. Our publisher doesn't put up with people whose attitudes make them impossible to work with. People come in from other places and start the nattering and gossiping and politicking and pretty soon, they seem to get that we don't roll that way here. And if someone persistently can't fit in, I just don't think they last long here. It isn't a mindless conformity--because, as I said, there's quite a bit of diversity. It's more a matter of practicality. We have work to do and if we're all huffing and puffing around trying to build alliances and fiefdoms, that energy isn't going to the tasks at hand. Dave--Isn't it one of life's very best blessings to have work you love? One of the lessons I wanted my children to get early in life is that life IS work and any life spent trying to get out of work is pretty much a wasted life. Work is splendid--it means we're alive and functioning and needed and capable. And I love that you have found a whole second expression of your work--in service to others. Yeay for you! Shannon--One of our saving graces is that so many people here garden and raise animals. Gives us LOTS to talk about!


anotherkindofdrew
1/20/2010 8:05:12 AM

I write this with great envy as I work with a team of people who are largely similar to the GRIT staff. However, there are a couple of people who seem to derive great pleasure from upsetting the apple cart. Why, I often ask myself? And the same answer returns to me. Because they don't know any different. What you outlined K.C. is a simple but astoundingly unique concept. And I quote, "hard work and pleasure in simple things. We’re about community and self-reliance, in just about equal measure. We talk about how to feed ourselves, grow things, build stuff, get along with each other and say a holy “Gee whiz” at the amazing intricacy of the natural world." The world would be such a more unified place if we did have to rely on each other for basic facets of life. But unfortunately too many are conditioned to feel superior and seek further superiority oftentimes benefiting from the misfortune of others. Without adding to the depression of our current world, I do want to say thank you K.C. for just putting what so many of us dream of into words. At the end of the day it is what I close my eyes to. -Drew anotherkindofdrew.com


s.m.r. saia
1/20/2010 7:08:23 AM

This was a GREAT post. I always avoid talking about "issues" with people, because "issues" are invariably devisive. I prefer to talk about the weather, or any other seemingly "trivial" point of commonality between us. REALLY nice post.


nebraska dave
1/19/2010 10:07:46 PM

K.C., Wow sounds like a great place to work. You got any open positions there? Just kidding. I’m retired and I love my staff too …. Me. I spent my 40 year career in the telecommunication industry. I worked a job that I couldn’t wait to get to work every day. Each day was different, challenging, and definitely not boring. I’d still be there, but I found something I liked better. I am part of church teams that help rebuild communities after disasters in the Midwest. In Kansas I’ve been to Greenburg where the super tornado went through and Iola to repair a house that had been flooded. As you have stated the teams were from all different backgrounds, nationalities, and beliefs. There have been challenges at times, but it’s all about just learning to get along with diversity. In all honesty, I really enjoy working with a diverse work group. I get to learn about all kinds of different cultures .... and food. It finally warmed up a bit here in Nebraska. Yea!!