Our Three-Legged Stool

In Christianity and sociology, as well as other fields like economics, philosophy, and politics, there is the something called the three-legged stool theory. This theory explains three core principles that can only be upheld when all three parts are working together. Without the support of all the pillars, the once useful stool is little more than modern art lying on the floor. In Christianity, the legs are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In sociology, the legs are the three main systems in our society: micro, mezzo, and macro.

For those who have been out of school for a while, or simply did not have to learn these levels, micro systems are the smallest; this includes looking at how something affects self and those we are closest to, such as our family and friends. Mezzo systemsare the groups we are a part of in our community. This may be school, work, church, extracurriculars, theatre troupe, cat breeding competitions–whatever! Finally, macro systems are the largest; this can include the entire general public, any governing bodies, or really anything that shapes the societal framework we all live in.

At GKC, we aim to serve the community at all three of these levels–as someone who has been a part of the community for about a year, it seems as though few people are privy to see all the three sides of the mission. Many volunteers often work under one or two pillars of the GKC stool, but do not get to see the full picture.

At the micro level–the one-on-one level–volunteers are able to form the deepest relationships, something GKC puts a lot of stock in developing. The benefit of having an organization that allows clients to come and communicate directly with leadership include the ability to serve people on a personal basis. We can better learn about their situation, the needs, and what we can best do to serve one another. This practice can be seen when people come to talk to our leadership at the office, or on Food Delivery days when volunteers help other members in the community by taking food directly to the person in need. The greatest perk of this level of service is how rich and long lasting these relationships are; however, fostering all of these relationships is timely. Micro systems can also become disjointed from the rest of the community, if not properly nurtured. Yes, our goal is to serve every individual that walks through our doors, but due to time and volume, leadership cannot serve everyone at this level equally. This is where the community comes into play.

At the mezzo level, we include all of our community resources, and work as a team to serve our people. The mezzo level includes everyone from our school volunteers to our church and grocer food share partnerships.  By using other assets in the community, GKC is able to expand its outreach, and serve a wider array of people. For example, due to the partnership we have with places like Publix and Trader Joe’s, GKC is able to open up Sunday Market three out of four Sundays a month. The Sunday Trade Market is completely volunteer run and aims to serve anyone in the community who is able to attend. The benefit of using a mezzo system in GKC’s design is the increased impact–by mobilizing partners and volunteers, the leadership is able to focus on micro and macro needs, while different circles of people are able to share love outward.

Similarly, Acts 4:32 is entirely community driven and allows for all community members to act independently, but still be a part of the greater community of Grace Klein volunteers.  The main hindrance to the mezzo system at GKC is also its greatest strength: the lack of formality. This leg of the stool puts a lot of stock in volunteers and partners following through on their commitments, as well as it assumes all members have an equally vested interest in the mission. This is how the macro system can benefit an organization like GKC.

At the macro level, we are looking at all the greater, ruling bodies, and follow suit with their guidelines. An example of these rules include the federal guidelines laid out by the Food Bank of Central Alabama. In order for us to receive funding and federally sponsored food donations, we must abide by their structure–ie, boatloads of paperwork. This can also include laws, such as abiding to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more about this, please see GKC’s article on the Good Samaritan Law. Finally, whenever GKC earns a grant, whether it be at a local, state, or federal level, GKC must function under their specific guidelines. Okay, now that the bureaucratic nonsense is out of the way, let’s talk about the fun side of our macro efforts! That’s right, we’re going global!

GKC has eight global partnerships in South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Belize, and two in India. When we think about community, many of us tend to think locally, but we are all sharing this planet together; both love and strife are universal. At GKC, the aim is to be a resource for anyone needing help. By going global in our efforts, we are utilizing the benefits of a macro system. The downside to having a purely macro design is, we can miss out on the beautiful, rich relationships that occur in a micro or messo approach… thus the three-legged stool.

GKC strives to balance all three systems, which is made possible through our wonderful donors and tireless volunteers. Without the help of every member in the community, GKC would not be able to find this balance. Much like the Christian stool that aims to have an equal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, GKC wants to foster micro, mezzo, and macro relationships. Missing one of the three pillars is detrimental to the system as a whole.

Thanks to our partnerships and community members, every day our stool becomes increasingly more stable.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 28:19

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Grace Klein Community, 1678 Montgomery Highway. #104, Birmingham, AL 35216

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