Possibility Alliance: living simple leads to happiness
At the Possibility Alliance, the motto is simplicity. It's a sustainable living-learning service center, located on Frontier Lane in Adair County. It was funded as an experiment to see what happens when people get rid of modern conveniences, live off the land, and serve their communities.
"By living simple, we learn what's important again, family, friends, and creation," said Ethan Hughes.
Hughes and his wife Sarah started the Alliance on April 4, 2007. The couple was living in France when they came up with the idea. Hughes said they sent up a prayer, asking for a farm with pasture and forest, near a train station, and near a college town. The prayer was answered after one of their friends, a Canadian, visited A.T. Still University and told them it'd be the perfect place. The couple, along with several donors, bought the land, site unseen.
For five years, the couple and their growing family, have lived like the Amish, without a car, electricity, television, cell phone, or computer. Instead, they use candles, a wood burning stove, solar cookers, and hand-held tools. Their only connection to the outside world is their landline phone.
"We live in a passive culture where we watch everything," said Ethan Hughes. "We watch TV, we watch a movie...here you have to create everything. I'm cooking today, so someone milks the goats and makes the cheese. If we want to have music, you have to make your music."
Hughes said the Alliance often has live music nights, where everyone chimes in. They also have puppet shows. Hughes said they've been able to share their way of life with thousands.
"We host about 1,500 people here a year from all over the world. We've had people from New Zealand, Uzbekistan, and Colombia."
The Possibility Alliance operates on a gift economy, where services are free and people can donate as they please. One volunteer, who lives in Chicago, and is getting ready to move to Thailand, said the alliance keeps drawing him in.
â??The spontaneity of the place, the hard work, the Earth, culture, art culture, the music, the animals. Itâ??s a beautiful, beautiful thing and also the meetings, the consensus, the checking in with each other, making sure itâ??s not just about the work, but itâ??s how weâ??re working together," said Taylor Sundheim. "The last time we made bread in the oven over there, me and Mark road our bikes all the way to Kirksville, and gave them away for free at the Farmerâ??s Marketâ?¦so I love that.â??
"It's really amazing in our hearts to see that thousands of people, all over the United States, want to learn to live simple. In an economic downturn, it's really useful to live simpler because you don't lose your house to foreclosure and people want to do service."
Some people were so inspired by the project that they decided to move-in permanently. Besides the Hughes family of four, five other adults have moved in with the family. The Alliance also hosts apprentices.
"When people come, they're like wow, people aren't stressed, they're generous, they laugh a lot, and that's what I think most people are seeking and sometimes maybe going up the wrong tree."
Hughes said the experiment has been so successful they're running out of space.
"We have so many people on the waiting list, we tell people there's campsitesâ?¦there's really not much space. We've hosted 5,000 people right in this house and we have our family living here."
The family and volunteers are building a straw-bale house and duplex by hand, so they'll have more space for visitors in the other home.
"We have 110 acres, it's all paid for, my wife and my children meet people from all over the world," said Hughes. "We get to do service and each day, do what's in our hearts. We're not in debt, and we tithe 20 percent of any donations so we're able to give lots of resources to people in need...so it's to us an amazing life."
The Possibility Alliance also serves as the International Superhero Headquarters. Hughes helps unite volunteers, who pick up a superhero persona and costume, and then travel by bicycle to urban and rural impoverished neighborhoods to serve those in need. This year, the group is working in Michigan. According to Hughes, the superheroes have served people in 26 states, and in six countries.
â??They work at a food bank for people in need, theyâ??re rebuilding a home, so right now on this farm in rural Missouri, we have an arm of 700 people who go out on a nationwide level doing service work so itâ??s kind of like a Dr. Seuss/Gandhi people army. But the difference is the superheroes bring service, compassion instead of punching people."
"We found that people love it. It's playful and it's meaningful. We serve 24/7. "
The Possibility Alliance also organizes several community service projects locally, including spending time with residents at the La Plata Nursing Home. They've also sent volunteers to Kansas City and St. Louis, to help those in need. The Alliance offers classes on simple living, which are open and free to public.
Here's a list of upcoming events:
Harvest Fest, Sept. 8, 1-4 p.m.
Organic beekeeping, Sept. 15, 2-5 p.m.
Wild Edibles, Oct. 13, 12-3 p.m.
Sourdough Breadmaking, Oct. 20, 1-5 p.m.
Cheesemaking (goat cheese) Oct. 27, 2-4 p.m.
The Possibility Alliance is located at 28408 Frontier Lane, Adair County, Mo.