IT may be a an old folk tale but the many variations of the story of stone soup still have credence in today’s world where we have become evermore separated as communities by those who practise subtractive community, education, business methods and leadership rather than constructive methods and leadership.

We can include governments, planners, banks, businesses and educational establishments in this group. Of course included in all those groups will be good hearted, well meaning individuals who join in order to contribute to what they believe is a constructive method. They are to be applauded and encouraged.

What do we mean by subtractive methods?

One can take any element of a community and observe either the subtractive or constructive methods at work. Take chapels and churches in Wales. We are led to believe that they are outdated and more often than not a burden on society, which when closed can be sold off to developers. A far greater use of the resource.

We can say that on the one hand depending on your beliefs that would be a constructive argument, however when one considers the erosion of society and communities in general, the subtracting of a community leader and a place where the central message is of love for fellow man one could argue that every closure is a blow against society and therefore a subtractive method. There will be those who argue that the church has also lost its way and has lacked morals and community involvement. We can go back to our original introduction and say there will be some, but in the main, the majority would have joined for the sole purpose of building a constructive element within their community.

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We could look at the loss of local green spaces. One could argue that people need homes and therefore the green playing field where once hundreds of children played but no longer is redundant and should be used constructively to build on. The homes bring more people, more cars, more pollution and a need to counter that in a constructive way. There are no green areas to compensate. As a result people suffer ill health and depression as their green spaces where they went for fresh air and exercise have gone. It becomes a subtractive process.

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There are so many examples one could use and without over simplifying things, the message really is that we as a society as communities have to have in place representatives who will consider in depth the impact of any decision making both subtractive and constructive on the very communities they serve. That cannot be done by merely attending a planning meeting and having a show of hands at the end. It needs complete community involvement with input from every facet of the community. When the decision makers all belong to the same institution, all on the same pay role it is a recipe for corruption.

Back to the story of stone soup. The story is based on some travellers who come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers.

Then the travellers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travellers answer that they are making “stone soup”, which tastes wonderful and which they would be delighted to share with the villager, although it still needs a little bit of garnish, which they are missing, to improve the flavour.

The villager, who anticipates enjoying a share of the soup, does not mind parting with a few carrots, so these are added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travellers again mention their stone soup which has not yet reached its full potential. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, the stone (being inedible) is removed from the pot, and a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by travellers and villagers alike. Although the travellers have thus tricked the villagers into sharing their food with them, they have successfully transformed it into a tasty meal which they share with the donors.

We would submit that our magazine team could be considered as the travellers and the magazine the pot of potential stone soup. The magazine itself is the stone we put into the water however there is no trickery involved here. In order to get to the point of bringing our pot of water with the stone we have to spend weeks of writing, design and production. What we ask for in return is a small contribution in order for everyone to share in the wonderfully produced magazine, which with only a handful of businesses is shared with the donors and a large audience across Carmarthenshire. Now that is constructive.

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