This Christmas my brother sent me a beautiful hand-knit chunky scarf in just the perfect shade of gray. The color is cozy. It has four square brown wooden buttons on it, and the power to completely change the look of an outfit.
I opened it as soon as the packaged arrived. It was a beautiful and thoughtful gift, but after I talked to my brother, I loved the scarf even more.
It was made by a woman who lives in his town. She is creative and talented, and she is bravely fighting cancer.
I adore that this scarf was handmade by someone who works and lives and creates in the same town as my brother. I love that when I wear this scarf, I think of the woman who made it. I feel a connection to her; after all, I’ve been gifted a product of her creativity.
Over the last few years, I’ve thought so much about community, our neighbors – the creative people who share our space, and carve out their existence right alongside us.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could become their cheerleaders, the people pushing them on to success?
As a consumer, what if I shopped at my local neighborhood stores? What if I sought out that creative person and commissioned them to use their talents to make me one-of-a-kind gifts? What if I ate at the restaurants owned by my neighbors?
Would it make a difference in my community?
What if we all did that, right where we live?
A few years ago, I decided to buy all my Christmas gifts in my own town. We didn’t have any big shops, no major retailers. We did have an artisan community though, some small, locally owned shops, and holiday craft fair. I did about 95% of my shopping this way. I’m not naive enough to think my few dollars changed anyone’s life, but it changed me a little.
I began to see all the talent around me. Instead of complaining about all my little region of the world didn’t have, I realized how blessed we actually were.
I am absolutely blown away by all the stuff people make. It’s amazing, and wonderful, and bit magical to think that we have such talent living among us.
We complain so much about big-box stores, waiting in endless lines, manufacturing being outsourced to third-world countries, child-labor, unsafe working conditions, and unfair wages, but none of that will change until we begin to change.
I’ll be the first to admit to big-box store shopping. I go to Walmart all the time, so it’s hypocritical for me to even write this post. I do what’s easy, what’s convenient for my wallet and my schedule. I’m not even necessarily against big stores, or chains, or multi-billion dollar companies, but I am also for the guy down the road trying to make a go of his small business.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know if the artist and the big-box store can co-exist, but I sure want to hope they can.
Whenever it is in my power, I want to encourage the person making stuff. I want to support the shops and restaurants, and small businesses in my community. I want to buy “hand-made with love.”
I kinda hope that one day, I’ll be able to associate each of my scarves with the person who made it. There’s just something ridiculously cool about that idea.
Makers gonna make, and shoppers gonna shop. Can’t we make it work for both of us?
If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on a completely different part of “community”, head on over to thedomesticfringe.com, my personal blog. I’m talking about my son’s sixteenth birthday and asking a question.
Does it really take a village to raise a child?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Please feel free to share your heart and ideas.