I tend be rather introverted with people I don’t know to the point that people probably think I am rude or snooty. I do OK in a small-group setting, but 1:1 or large groups of people I don’t know, that tightening-of-the-chest feeling creeps up. And this has really been a struggle for me; this is why I say that I am, apparently, a bee-advocate by force. But if being a bee-advocate is what it takes for me to increase awareness and provide the education necessary to continue to be an urban beekeeper, then I’m in.
It seems as though everywhere I go in our town of 11,000, someone recognizes me as “that bee lady.” I am always relatively cautious (given the reaction of certain City officials), somewhat afraid that I am about to be reamed out or chastised. But that has yet to be the case; for the record, NO ONE that has come up to me, personally called me or personally emailed me outside of City officials has said they are against urban beekeeping, my beehive, or the location of my beehive– NO ONE. The overwhelming sentiment is that they don’t understand what the big deal is, they proceed to tell me all of the wonderful things that honeybees do, and quite a few go on to thank me for what I am doing.
That still doesn’t relieve me from the sense of dread I get when I have to approach someone I don’t know to talk about my bees, or when they approach me. I can’t help it… it’s my personality. I spaz a little inside. Actually, a lot.
So this morning was a real stretch for me to step outside of my comfort zone. Armed with a stack of the fliers promoting the upcoming Beesentation, I pounded the pavement downtown, talking to shop owners about having my flier posted. This meant a lot of introductions and conversations about urban beekeeping and my bees in particular. And I am proud to say that my record holds.
I introduced myself to tellers, sandwich-makers, baristas, store-owners, a seamstress, a chocolatier, and a variety of others. Some had gray hair, some had their nose pierced… some patrons who joined in the conversation had small children with, others were grandparents… some had lived in this town their whole lives, one was a recent implant from Germany… some were wealthier shop-keepers, and one was struggling to pay her bills as a clerk and growing food in her backyard. My point is that the people that I met this morning, introduced myself to, talked to, it was a literal cross-section of our community. This was not a group of people that I pulled together to skew poll numbers (not that a poll was really taken); I met people where they were, doing what they were doing at that moment in their life, unaware of the conversation that I was going to start with them. These were 100% natural conversations and reactions, and every one of them was supportive. Every. Single. One.
After introducing myself, I got a couple of, “Oh! You’re the bee lady!” remarks, but the best one was this: I interrupted a young woman while sweeping. I said, “My name is Bethel Metz and I was wondering if you could…” and she stops suddenly, puts her hand up to stop me and says, “If it’s about the bees, yes! Whatever you need!” and grabs a flier out of my hand, goes behind the counter and tapes it to the glass on her door, thanking me for helping the bees. Without having be beg. Heck, without even reading the flier! I was speechless. 🙂
So, thank you Dockside Deli, Port Washington State Bank, Smith Brothers Coffee, Fair Trade for All, Chocolate Chisel, Java Dock (x2!), Anchor Menswear, Shoppes of Port Washington, Harbor Temptations, and Baltica Tea. And to all of the patrons and customers inside who joined in the conversation, shook my hand, asked what they could do to help, thank you. Your kindness was overwhelming. As I have said, going through this feels like pushing a square boulder up a steep hill; but having the support of friends, family, and many strangers help push that rock makes it a heck of a lot easier.