Let’s Meet for Tea

That’s the response I got from Shea Smith, director of Nevada City’s apothecary and sustainable herbalism shoppe, HAALo.

Even before we moved to California, one of the things I was most excited about exploring was the apothecary in our neighboring town, which would only be a ten minute drive from our new house. Then once we got here, I couldn’t even unpack all of our boxes before I had to visit HAALo for myself, buying some essential oils and a salve. From the minute I stepped inside, I knew that this was a place I wanted to become more a part of, a place where I knew I could fit in and spend a large portion of my time. I’d gone a number of times for repeat purchases of some fantastic herbal remedies that helped me with high stress levels and chronic muscle pains, and I signed up on their email newsletter list.

A few days later, I received an email with a blog post in it about HAALo’s need for volunteers for the herb-gathering season. No, I have never gathered herbs before, let alone with a group of other people, but I had been hoping for a way to get more involved both in the community and in this newly discovered shoppe of healing, and I replied to the email address on the blog post. With the following email:

I just read an email that was sent to me, a post from Shea’s blog, and she had this email address and you as a contact at the end. I wanted to get in touch with you and see what kind of volunteer opportunities there are with Haalo for someone who has little to absolutely zero experience in natural medicine and herbalism. That’s me!
          My husband and I moved to Grass Valley three weeks ago, and visited Haalo for the first time the day after we got here. I had never seen an apothecary in our last home, South Carolina, and the thought of living so close to one struck an excitement in me that I didn’t know was there.
           Even in three short weeks, we have had a few small consultations and purchased products from Haalo that have more than improved our life here (my husband used the Lung Tea to help with his effort to quit smoking, and he’s now almost three weeks without a cigarette!). Although I am new to herbal medicine, I am a firm believer that Western Medicine (pills and prescriptions and countless “therapies”) are not actually beneficial to those desperate to relieve pain and become healthy, body and spirit. My own personal experiences back up that belief. And when I took the time to truly explore and investigate natural medicine, the world made sense again.
           Basically, I’m writing this email to ask if there are any opportunities, any help needed at Haalo, for a girl who is passionate about sustaining local economies, living a healthy and connected lifestyle, and helping others find the hope I have found, but who has no idea where to start. Honestly, I don’t have a farm, and I don’t have a garden, and I don’t have any experience. 
           I am self-employed as a Freelance Editor and Alternative Medicine Copywriter, and am blessed with the ability to write my own schedule 90% percent of the time. I would like to offer my enthusiasm and skills in any way that I can. What’s in it for me? Helping others. Quenching my thirst for knowledge and learning. Becoming part of a beautiful community of which I have barely scratched the surface, and being able to give back.
          Thank you for taking the time to read this email, and I really look forward to hearing back from you about any available opportunities. If nothing comes to mind immediately, that is perfectly fine. All I ask is that you keep me on the list of people who are available if Haalo ever needs volunteers. I hope this email finds you well.
It was an example of my enthusiasm exploding all over the page. And a part of me honestly expected to get a much shorter response saying that I would be added to the list of volunteers and contacted with any available opportunities. Most of us definitely know what it feels like to share a passion, and I had opened up my passion for their store while giving away very clearly the fact that I have no experience in herbalism whatsoever, aside from preferring teas, essential oils, and salves over pharmaceuticals any day. But no part of me had expected that passion to illicit the response that I received from the staff at HAALo. I was informed that my email had been passed on to the “management”, and then I was contacted by the Design and Marketing Director, who told me that she and the Founder of HAALo wanted to “meet me for tea”. It was an invitation to sit down together as strangers and leave as friends, to get to know more about one another and see what kinds of things we could do for each other as “small businesses”.

I was thrilled. And I almost posted about it here, but thought it best to wait until after the meeting, just in case it was not what I had expected. That meeting was last Thursday, and it was definitely not what I expected.

It was so much better.

Unfortunately, Kathy, the Marketing Director that I had been emailing, was called out of town. But I got an hour with Shea, and I am not exaggerating when I say that it was the best business meeting I’ve ever been to in my life. We sat down at a table in the cafe that she had chosen, and she began by explaining with a short story the relationship that she had with the place, a relationship that extended back five years to when she was just starting to build HAALo from the ground up.

She told me that she and a few other girls in the shoppe had taken to “secretly calling [me] Bat Girl”, a compliment I accepted with pride. Apparently, at the same time that the Universe extended an open hand to offer me an outlet for my interests in natural medicine and becoming a part of this beautiful community, it used the other hand to tap HAALo on the shoulder and point in my direction. They had been contacted, Shea explained, by four different magazines in the last month, requesting articles from HAALo to publish in their journals. The apothecary was just starting to get national recognition, in addition to already being a cornerstone of this Northern California community, and Kathy had just commented on her need for a writer, editor, or someone to help build their web content. And then I emailed them.

We had a good laugh over our shared serendipity, and then Shea’s story of HAALo’s beginnings morphed into a story of her own beginnings, the trials that she overcame to first create the woman she is now, and then to create the life-giving spirit that is HAALo. Nearly every other sentence struck me in a place that was blatantly familiar, and it took more willpower than I thought I had not to blurt out, “Me too!” But I didn’t. I listened to her beautiful, powerful story, finding a brand new appreciation for the wonders I had just stumbled upon, and thanked her for sharing the pieces.

I had a brief moment to reciprocate, offering slivers of my past and who I am that would have gotten me kicked out the door at any other “interview” or “business meeting”. But this wasn’t just that. This was two people meeting on a day that had brought them together to converge on one single point – this is who we are, and what we have been through to get here, so that we can help each other now. Incredibly simple, and just a little scary. Serendipity definitely has its dark side, and if you’re not ready for all the little surprises it holds up its gaping sleeves, those surprises can overwhelm you. Fortunately, I think both Shea and I had been searching for just this kind of surprise, and we were ready.

One hour was far too short, but we scheduled another meeting that would this time include Kathy, so I could meet her too. I have absolutely no idea where this will take me, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities to meet some phenomenal women, heroines in the realm of creating entire worlds from just what they had inside themselves. That’s what I’m trying to do. And helping to spread the word about the people and inspirations that make up HAALo, and what HAALo is trying to bring to the rest of the planet, is reward enough. I’m looking forward to the next tea date.

To learn more about the past that made HAALo what it is today, and the remarkable people and experiences that it’s brought into so many lives, go to HAALo.org and look around. You might just find something that you didn’t know was waiting for you.

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