Once upon a time, store closings for Thanksgiving wouldn’t have been remarked upon. It is not only a Federal and Stock Exchange holiday, but a sacred, Norman Rockwell moment in American life and we need more, not less, of them. This year, it has become a thing that some stores are closed, like Costco, Staples, and TJ Maxx. In fact, a far larger number are not, starting their Black Friday sales a day earlier. (You know who you are.) I empathize with the staff who have no choice but work on this holiday, and with those who count on these sales to do their holiday gift buying. But I won’t be in those checkout lines on principle and for my mental health. I suspect I’m not alone in a desire to skip the whole fracas that has become the holiday season, and this year I’m getting off to a good start thanks to an unexpected gift: a serendipitous catch on the internet.
So here’s what we’re planning for Black Friday: the Ground Floor Farm’s Really Really Free Market, 2-8 pm, November 27, 100 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in Stuart, Fl. This is a ‘pop-up marketplace of diverse goods and services where absolutely everything is free. No money, no barter. Just come and take what you want, and ideally give something too!’ To make giving possible, on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, they’ll be accepting donations of goods. On the day of the event, you can show up with your own sign (table and chair) and offer a free service, e.g. haircut, massage, yoga class, musical serenade, financial planning – you get the idea. I don’t need any more stuff, but I could probably fill a bag or two of items for donation. And who could say no to a free massage or serenade? http://www.groundfloorfarm.com/freemarket
Ground Floor Farm is the brainchild of three young farmers, Jacki, Micah and Mike, whose vision is to be part of a ‘hometown renaissance’ by modeling and educating others about small space urban farming, and becoming a hub of cultural and social events. In addition to a regular booth at the Sunday Stuart Farmers Market, they offer classes in homesteading arts like medicinal herbs, and the making of cheese, bread, sauerkraut and candles, plus a free yoga class every Sunday. There is also a young adult program and a three-day camp for grades 2-8 this December.
The Really Really Free Market is a local example of the gift economy I’ve touched on in previous posts, and I’m really really excited to experience it and possibly borrow the idea. Other current examples include the little free libraries of Lake Worth organized by local residents (it’s a national movement), and accessory and/or clothing swaps for frugal fun and charitable fund-raising turning up in women’s circles. Seed and/or cuttings swaps, tool libraries, time banks, and guerrilla gardening are familiar to the Transition Town culture, and a reliable source of community resilience. For free and excellent online learning, see Coursera for adult learners and Khan Academy for school children. Recently, I participated in the Mindfulness Summit, an Australian-based project providing 31 days of interviews and instruction with renowned meditation teachers, each segment available for 24 hours for free (the package for future viewing was $79). Even large-scale projects like our national parks system, the lending libraries, community-supported projects like Wikipedia, in fact, the internet itself, all fall into the category of gift: something freely given. This is my idea of a free market.
Gifts have an old and complex history linked with matriarchal societies, beginning with the fact that mothers bestow the gift of life on their children, with no expectation of return (though the occasional phone call wouldn’t hurt). Gifts are based on the philosophy of abundance and generosity as opposed to exchange which is tied to scarcity and susceptible to hoarding and greed. The gift economy predated capitalism, so it is especially fascinating to see it re-emerge in mainstream culture today. Charles Eisensteins’ Sacred Economics, a history of money (recommended reading) offers four useful principles for a successful gift economy that you may find helpful in the often fraught experience of giving and receiving on a smaller scale.
- Over time, giving and receiving must be in balance.
- The source of a gift is to be acknowledged.
- Gifts circulate rather than accumulate.
- Gifts flow towards the greatest need.
All make sense to me, especially #4. I’m re-gifting these to my readers, paying (and playing) them forward, you could say. ‘Tis the season to be mindful about how and why and for whom we buy holiday gifts, and whether there is something more precious we can give.
The Moneyless Manifesto: http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org/book/the-moneyless-menu/the-gift-economy/