My friend Randy Twaddle is an artist, an accomplished entrepreneur, and one of the most dapper and charming people you could ever hope to meet. (And trust me, you hope to meet him.) He lives in Houston, and he’s plugged into some pretty sophisticated communities, locally and far afield.

He also grew up in a small town – a very small town called Elmo, Missouri. And that small town upbringing has informed his approach to life and work in profound ways. So much so that he has built a consultancy around the values and vibe he associates with his small town roots.

He called that consultancy Small Town.

Talking to Randy about this got me thinking about my roots, and in particular the ones I don’t share with just anyone… the ones that go deep enough that they might not be obvious to people who don’t know me, but have shaped and fed my choices and values from my earliest days — and likely always will.

For instance: my mother grew up on a farm, in the wilds (she’d say “the bush”) of northern Ontario. Bedtime stories in my childhood often consisted of Laura Ingalls Wilder-style narratives of trying to eke out a modest life in an environment that was often hostile: sheets that froze to the walls of a poorly-insulated house in the winters, beds shared by several siblings, encounters with forest creatures, and profound gratitude and appreciation for the simple pleasures in life.

My dad was a United Church minister, a theological scholar who loved poetry, music, liturgy, and scripture in equal measure. From him, I learned to savour and treasure words, to hold language sacred, to excavate layers of meaning and history beneath these crude but beautiful tools we use to try and grasp a little of this life.

My parents were (and are) devoted to community, to collective action, to generosity and respect, and those values shaped me. In many ways, they’re the roots of what I do now.

A pause, here, to acknowledge that not all parents instill values we share, that lineage may be traced apart from blood and DNA, and that your roots may have required (re)planting in more fertile soil. I’ve chosen to focus here on my blood line, but you may find more nourishment in your milk line or your story line.

So here’s your curiosity experiment for this week:

  • What are the roots that shape and nourish you?
  • How do you connect to those roots in your daily life?
  • Where might your roots want more fertile soil?