The morning after the bookstore was touched by a brief plague of water, I had the pleasure of meeting with Lisa Gottlieb at one of our favorite neighborhood spots: the Argus Farmstop. Lisa is a fascinating person, intelligent, warm, and kind, one of our regular bookstore customers, and she does beautiful work for the Ann Arbor community. How lucky I was to talk with this bright star of a human on a morning I was feeling especially worn out.
I first met Lisa about five years ago, in her living room. She served me breakfast. I had just moved to Ann Arbor for graduate school, and after learning about Lisa’s SELMA cafe, essentially a neighborhood breakfast every Friday morning, I went as often as I could to Lisa’s house in the Old West Side, bringing new friends and delighting in the offerings and warmth inside the rooms. Local chefs prepared beautiful meals, sometimes a middle school orchestra performed amidst the leafy greens in Lisa’s front yard, and donations went to the worthy cause of sustaining local hoop-house farming. The SELMA cafe’s hour has passed, but Lisa’s still working towards making her community a better place.
By day, Lisa works as a social worker for Washtenaw Intermediate School District, the Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention Center, among other programs, and also teaches yoga and meditation. Before becoming a social worker, she studied Fine Art at Eastern Michigan University, with an emphasis on printmaking, drawing, and photography. I wasn’t surprised to hear about Lisa’s background in art; a sense of harmony and creativity seems to inform all that she does now. Somehow she manages a balance between the demands of her work, and the continuing threads of her art. She tells me that these spheres of her life inform each other.
These days, Lisa’s focusing many of her efforts on the study and practice of non-violent and compassionate communication. During our conversation, Lisa told me a little bit about this practice, which is centered on understanding violence, and the human needs that are often wrapped up in violence, and moving towards compassionate communication and a sense of balance. She’s been doing some amazing work with the Compassionate Community Center of Ann Arbor.
I was curious to know about some of the books that inspire Lisa. She recommended Miki Kashtan’s Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness, and described Rich Lassiter’s writing on Non-Violent Communication in the workplace as another great resource. And as for poetry, Lisa recommends the work of Julia Levine.
Speaking of empathy and that beautiful sense of balance, I came by the soggy bookstore later that afternoon to a tired, dirty bookstore staff rejoicing amidst the boxes of wet books. Lisa had just come by with a container of delicious homemade baked goods. Folks like Lisa Gottlieb sustain our community, and we’re so fortunate to have her as a customer.
Thank you, Lisa Gottlieb!