Padna is a little Istrian village that overlooks Piran on the coast of Slovenia. Skinny winding roads snake up to the top of the hill where you’ll find old stone structures nestled among vineyards and fruit trees. This is home to the 16 families that live in Padna –the total population is approximately 150.
The people who live there are warm and friendly. If you make the journey today, you might meet Bushka, an elderly lady with a round face and a wide smile who will cheerfully demonstrate how she makes intricate lace patterns with straight pins and white thread – the same way those before her did in the medieval times. Or, maybe you’ll come across Leo who will explain in a soft voice how he crafts his unique pottery pieces without a wheel. It’s quite likely that you’ll enjoy a piece of homemade bread with sun dried tomatoes or truffle quiche. With each gentle breeze, wafts of lavender and rosemary fill the air.
And wine…of course, the wine…
From the top of the hill, the view of the lush green valleys below is breathtaking. The people are eager to explain that these green spaces are historical preserves that will never see modern development or destruction of any kind to the natural ecosystem. Because Napoleon ordered the pine and fruit trees to be planted in order to provide shade and food for his troops, they have government protection. But to the natives, they treasure their corner of the world, not for political reasons, but for the way it has shaped their lifestyle and the legacy they hope to leave to the next generation.
Our actions have consequences. Just because we may not be around to experience those consequences doesn’t make them less real or less meaningful.
You won’t see wrappers, empty cans, or other debris. But, you might see kids foraging for mulberries or truffles. They celebrate the fresh foods and herbs available to them and they never freeze foods. Rather, the menu is defined by the growing season. To give you a sense of how much they value natural quality food, several years ago, McDonald’s opened a store in nearby Piran only to close 6 months later. The kids said the food “tasted like plastic.”
Children are taught to respect the gifts of the earth at a very early age. They begin to make their own healthy food choices as soon as they learn their colors. To a toddler, it’s a bit of a game: eat five fresh colors every day – yellow, red, orange, green, and purple – to grow up big and strong.
“Mama, I still need a purple… I’m going to find a purple!”
Figs, eggplant, plums, grapes, and olives are the popular purples here. Pesticides are never used, and the fruits and vegetables are not just picked, rather they are “carefully collected and respected.”
Like everything else from nature, olive trees are a treasured gift. If you’d like to have an olive tree on your terrace, you must register it with the government. The varietal species is identified and, once approved, it is officially documented. Certain types of olive trees are strictly forbidden to prevent hybrids. The olives grown here are special and it is of upmost importance to protect them. They are nurtured and “caressed” as they grow until it is time to harvest them. That first succulent bite will make you a believer.
The people of Padna have woven their rich history and culture into modern life. They live as a family taking care of one another as friends and neighbors rather than cohabitants. They teach their children to respect and protect the earth and celebrate the gifts it provides. They embrace riches with roots over products with price tags. They find prosperity in friendship and strive to leave their legacy by preserving the culture and traditions that have survived since 1186.
The rest of the world can learn a great deal from these wise and humble people.
Take care of our earth.
Take care of one another.
Prioritize your values.
Remember your roots.
Leave a mark, not a scar.
We all make choices every single day. Those choices affect our relationships, our communities, our happiness and sense of well-being, and our planet. So, my challenge for you is this: Consider your workplace, your community, your family. What can you do today to leave a mark – not a scar – in each of those places and make your corner of the world a little better?
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Dr. Melissa Hughes is the President and Founder of The Andrick Group. Melissa specializes in growing our capacity to learn as well as employee engagement, effective communication strategies, and the unique dynamics of the multi-generational workforce. Having worked with learners from the classroom to the boardroom, she incorporates brain-based research, humor, and practical strategies that impact how organizations think, learn, communicate and collaborate.