Learning (slowly) to shop, give, & live with more dignity. Also: Blankets.
For many of us — perhaps especially if you have kids in school, or an affinity for fall —, September is the perfect time for a fresh start. I wrote last week about my fresh exercise start after a summer of indulgence!
Whether it is the new calendar year, or a new school year, milestones offer a great chance for fresh starts. I think it is a fantastic time to dream about what will be different, what systems can change & improve, and how to begin well.
But here we are, mid-way through September, and I want to offer another thought:
Before we get started… In case you are wondering: Yes, I am aware that dignify, here, where you’re reading this, is an online store! And that I sell things here.
Indeed, I want to sell kantha quilts — lots of them! But, in my desire to create opportunities for dignity for women sewing blankets in Bangladesh, I still want to preserve the dignity of our customers, and of ourselves.
When people speak of “charity”, what they are talking about is one-way work – how are other people benefiting from the charity that I am providing? How are their lives being changed by the money that I give?
Transforming lives of people in need is a good thing, an extraordinary thing! Charity is not a bad word.
However, true development is always a two-way street – both sides (benefactor and recipient) need each other to progress, to truly “develop”. The rich and the poor need each other to become whole.
The crux of our work is, of course, selling blankets to employ women in a job with dignity. What that means — to me — is that the artisans & administrators from our partner producers (Basha) are treated with the utmost of respect. That they are treated with the honour that would be bestowed on a diplomat, CEO, or celebrity, even if (especially if?) they were recently homeless or selling sex.
That is crucial to our story & our values.
But, what about in other parts of my business? What about in other parts of my life?
When a telemarketer or door-to-door salesperson comes by, is their dignity of utmost importance? Or, do I just want to get rid of that person to get on with my day? Do I resent the interruption, or do I treat the interruptor as I would want to be treated?
My family of 5 just returned from a holiday to visit family & explore in London. As I mentioned on Instagram, we brought along several kantha throws.
I am, of course, utterly biased; AND, I know it is a huge privilege to have multiple throws in my own personal stash for hauling around the world. But, I wanted to share some pics and stories about how a kantha throw is the best travel blanket in the world!
Owning few items used to be called poverty. But when one is able to purge, declutter, and own only long-lasting, good quality items, is this a luxury limited only to the wealthy?
A friend of mine spent several years teaching English as an additional language to adults; most of her students were new immigrants, and many of them, refugees. She saw a frequent phenomenon: an accumulation of stuff. Like, I'm talking: eight TVs kind of accumulation...
No, these folks aren't greedy, and they aren't individualists who are trying to accommodate each family member's personal show preferences! But, after living in want, in desperation, and in lack for so long, when faced with abundance, the scarcity mindset still rules. How can I give up this opportunity for a free XYZ? What if I never get that chance again?
If you've been around Shop Good for any amount of time, you've seen some book lists. You've probably also seen a few books appear over, and over, and over. 😂
Here is my summer reading post from 2016, and I still stand by it!
I would love to add more to the mix now in 2018, but I have a few problems on the recommendation front:
So, what is left?
I find that I consume a lot: of beauty, information, news, other people's babies & cats, etc. I want to consume less, and create more, so I'm trying out an experiment.
When I have a compulsion to "check" something — Facebook, Instagram feed, Pinterest's beautiful ideas, business metrics etc. — instead I will try to create something.
I know that not everyone is a "creative" (as a noun 😒), but we are all wired to some extent to create (the verb). I'm sure that there is research about the flexing of our brain muscles when we create, rather than consume — I don't know any of the details! But besides the brain benefit, I feel like I want more to show for my time spent.
"I read the Internet so much I feel like I’m like on page a million of the worst book ever." - Aziz Ansari
Right?! I don't finish bad books anymore, but I think I'd still rather read a bad book than a bad book's worth of internet... and yet, I have done it. Many times over. Without even so much as a "books I've read this year" list to show for it.
Most cultural changes happen gradually — it's the frog being slowly boiled in water effect, not the one dropped into the hot pot who immediately identifies the change & hops out. Logically, I know that our interaction with things & belongings has changed a lot in the postwar years; of course it has.
When I read Little House on the Prairie with my daughter, Laura Ingalls’ most prized possession is her corn cob doll. This is obviously very different than my daughter's life now, with an abundance of beautifully made toys (none of which are made from our backyard crops). But, so much about life then was drastically different that it doesn't even really impact how we think about life now. It didn't much chasten her... the life she lives now bears little resemblance to Laura's.
But, a few things lately have really drawn my attention to how much has drastically changed within my short lifetime.
You may not be a guest at the royal wedding this weekend (in spite of the fascinator you have all ready to go!)... But, we all have those friends.
You know, those friends who are getting married and what on EARTH could they possibly need or want as a wedding gift? The registry (if there is one) is dull, or they've asked for cash (a move that seems to get less tacky in the age of dead etiquette and sky-high housing prices). Officially, Harry and Meghan asked for charitable donations in lieu of wedding gifts, so yes, if that is the case with your own newlyweds, then by all means, donate to the charity of their choice (or Friends of Basha)!
However, I, for one, often still feel compelled to give something tangible as a present to a new couple. For me, it's a way to share the wealth, to be generous, to give as we have been given to. Also, a way to express my care for them in a way that is memorable and appreciated.
Photo: Bethany Douglass
"The wand chooses the wizard... it's not always clear why."
My husband just finished re-reading the Harry Potter series and marveled again at how intricately the story is weaved from the first through the seventh book. From early on in dignify's life, we have referred often to this line ↑ from The Philosopher's Stone (Rowling's first book in the series).
You see, each time we receive a shipment of new kantha quilts, there are always a few that I pull out and think, Yikes! Nobody is ever going to buy that. Then, I launch a collection of throws and undoubtedly, one of the blankets I deemed "unsellable" is among the first to go!