I followed the small path of grass between the waist-high purple coneflowers, sunflowers, and sage which led up to the barn. The din of bees buoyantly buzzing was replaced by the murmur of guests all immaculately dressed, ready to celebrate. The barn was nestled comfortably off the dirt road in the back hills of Massachusetts, and inside—naturally lit from the wall of windows—a long rustic table was laid out, beautifully prepared for my friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner, which he and his wife-to-be had prepared themselves. I think my friend was more excited to share this five-course dinner with his friends than for the actual ceremony. From our years of friendship and cooking together—his food immaculate while my attempts to make anything turned out similar to an I Love Lucy episode—I knew exactly how hard he would strive to make a meal perfect for other people. That dedication and intention was one of the obvious reasons he was an amazing friend.Between courses, someone would get up and say a few words about the couple, or the couple would say a few words about the upcoming dish. Most of these were typical how did you know they were the one stories or compliments about the intense labor that went into the meal. During one of these speeches, my ears perked up as the bride-to-be described the groom, “You are constantly curious!”
The word curious was one of my mother’s favorite words, always asking “Aren’t you curious?” and now it was following me on my trip around Massachusetts. I heard the curiosity in the verses Emily Dickinson diligently crafted as her poems were read aloud at her Homestead in Amherst. I saw it in the avid faces of travelers seeing someone use the glass armonica or the antique printing press along the Freedom Trail in Boston. I felt it in my soul as I read every sign and popped into as many museums as I could, even the little Atheneum Museum in Boston which had a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s book on seashells—which, who knew he wrote a textbook on seashells?! I sensed it in my habits as I jotted down copious notes during the guided walking tour I took around Salem.
I was acutely aware of curiosity’s absence, too. It snarked in the tone of questions as people tried to understand that Emily Dickinson was more than just a “strange recluse” as publicly believed. It ached in the history I learned while walking around Salem, hearing about how the 19 victims were not granted a fair trial before an open audience. I understood how the absence of curiosity and care can affect outlooks, lifestyles, and legacies.
Many of my friends’ kids are in the “But why?” stage—a stage too many people grow out of, and I always love to hear their questions and understand what they are curious about. Children want to know everything, and working in education, I understand that desperation to know. The world is infinitely interesting; every flower around that barn has a history, a life cycle, and many—according to the tours at Salem—were used as herbal remedies, similar to how every dish prepared for us by the bride and groom for their rehearsal dinner had a history or memory attached to it. It’s because of curiosity that we care and strive to learn, to act, or to invest.
The dishes for that dinner weren’t thrown together but meticulously fashioned from living with the recipes, taking risks with spices, and intentionally collecting the best ingredients. My friend wasn’t only open and curious, he applied that curiosity through hard work to share and connect with people that were important to him.
After working remotely for the past two years, we recently had an in-person all-company meeting. This meeting wasn’t just to provide us with company information, it was a place where we could be open, curious, and care. Every meeting had a space to share, and people did, which reflects something about our company’s culture.
Like my friends who planned a delicious rehearsal dinner, our company cares what is brought to the table, not just in what we produce, but in how we approach each task and stay curious about everything we create. At each meeting, I heard the question “What can we do to help make this better or easier?” During those meetings, we were asked about what we needed to help us strive, whether it be materials, tools, resources, or time. I’ve never been in a work space that vocalized curiosity so intently.
Space was created to help each team member succeed. The meetings provided an environment for people to discuss and connect, because it isn’t enough to be curious, you have to be open and communicative to implement curiosity as effective strategies. So often, great ideas get lost because someone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking or someone doesn’t have enough information.
At CSA, we aren’t afraid to try new things, to speak up, or to communicate needs. An underlying care between coworkers allows us to better ourselves, improve processes, and edify our team’s capabilities at all levels of the company. The support that comes from a curious and caring company allows us to strive for our clients and for our mission to engage and educate learners. We are proud of what we put on the table and celebrate the importance of that hard work.