Thursday, April 21, 2011
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.”
I browsed through many quotes before I found the one that perfectly embodied the essence of today's message. I have no idea who Sally Koch is, I do hope she's not related to the infamous Billionaire Koch brothers, although they could benefit from her advice!
When I think about building cooperative community I often look to the past, to the lives and stories of my Grandparents and theirs before them. Even 40 or 50 years ago it was common for neighbors to share resources, in fact it was often the center of social gatherings and yearly traditions. At harvest time people would can goods from their gardens, setting aside extras to trade with their friends and neighbors. Certain people or families were known for their specialty crops; Aunt Patty pickled green beans,Uncle Ray was a hunter and famed for his dried venison jerky. Maybe Mrs. Gough down the street canned jams and jellies and further down the road was a bee keeper with jars of golden sweetness. Neighborhood picnics and family reunions were often a free marketplace of sorts where homegrown products were traded among the community. These events not only ensured the distribution of resources but also provided an opportunity for families and neighbors to socialize. Community sharing was not exclusive to reunions or Harvest festivals. There were frequently ongoing gatherings where groups of neighbors convened for quilting parties or knitting circles, the good old "stitch 'n bitch' as my Grandmother used to say. If someone needed a certain type of button or print of fabric the community contributed resources to help one another with their projects. In my opinion, the 'bitch' element was probably equally as important as the 'stitch'. The stitch created useful and often unique blankets, clothing and household items. The 'bitch', to speak freely with a familiar and trusted group of friends provided a welcome release for women who spent most of their day tending to the needs of a household and children.
Another common practice was the sharing of 'hand me downs'. although it's often a topic of wry humor, the youngest boy wearing his older sisters clothes or being the kid who was last in line in the family, it is only in recent years that lower income families could afford to buy newer clothes for their children. Prices have decreased significantly due to the expansion of stores like Walmart because as we all know, the products are made overseas in crowded factories by ex impoverished men, women and children who will work for next to nothing. As the prices have dropped so has the quality, few of those clothes would last long enough to be handed down. When my children were young I had a group of friends who had children within the same age range. We had developed a hand me down system of our own; that way my youngest, a boy, didn't have to suffer the shame of wearing his older sisters clothes but instead inherited items from the neighbor boy who was a year older (and his mind, much cooler)
I realize that times have changed, that we have less time for such activities, but why is that? Is it perhaps because we spend so much time away from our families and communities employed by companies who have little or no connection to us as individuals? Perhaps the more we learn to do for ourselves as communities, to function in a spirit of mutual support and care, the more we can free ourselves from the the grip of a system that takes more from us than it gives in return.
Do you have friends, family or community that shares traditions and practices of a barter or freecycle/sharing economy? What survival tips have you learned throughout your experiences with hard times? It would be great to hear some stories!
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard