December 6, 2016
“It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” ~ Mother Teresa
It’s hard to believe that it has been 4 years since my last blog post. I was in the midst of a relocation to another state for a new job. I pulled in my new (old) digs (my parents’ home) on Thanksgiving Day 2012 after almost a year laid off.
Now here we are in December 2016, and due to my company’s acquisition, I find myself once again facing a layoff. Yup. Deja vu all over again!
At this point in my life, I don’t think I have another relocation in me. I have settled into a very different lifestyle, and one that suits me rather well. I live in a residential neighborhood now with nice neighbors.
I drive a car (versus public transportation) for the first time in about 25 years! And that car is almost paid for.
And I’ve discovered I enjoy, and am good at . . . gardening!
And while I am beating the bushes for yet another full-time position, I have done something that everyone seems to dream of — I’ve tried to turn a hobby into a side hustle.
It turns out I also seem to be good at crafting. And the one thing I have always been noted for is gift giving. I’ve tried to combine the two into a cottage industry I have named TheGiftingJeanie.
I set up an Etsy shop. I attend craft fairs.Recently, I was set up at a Christmas Market on a dismal, chilly Saturday.
Another vendor came to my table and struck up a conversation. She made and sold greeting cards and did some kind of “Angel card” tarot thing. She showed me a card that read “Angel – COMFORT” and said that she was getting the message that I needed comfort, not only for my sore body [could she feel how my poor old aching arthritic hip was killing me in those weather conditions?] but also for my soul. Facing another layoff is what led to my being at the Christmas Market with crafts in the first place.
Her recommendation was that I go home and soak in a hot tub filled with lavender and mint. I went home and collapsed in a heap and didn’t wake up until Sunday.
A friend asked me recently where or how I get the materials for my new craft projects. I told her that I bargain with everyone – especially nurseries for planters.
But what I did not tell her then, is that a great source for baskets is Goodwill.
Many major stores donate unsold goods to Goodwill and they appear in the Goodwill retail stores fairly quickly thereafter. Part of this is driven by the push for the new season or holiday’s goods to get shelf space. There is absolutely nothing “wrong” with the merchandise that ends up there – it’s just overstock. The prices are often exactly what they would have been in the major chain store, but now the profits all go to Goodwill. So, since I would have paid that in the store anyway, it’s a WIN-WIN in my opinion.
I get the inventory I want and the proceeds go to a good cause.
I tend to make the rounds regularly as there is constant turnover in a Goodwill store. And plenty of foot traffic this holiday season, too.
Later on Sunday, when I headed out just to see what I might find to replenish my inventory, dragging my still aching leg along, I could hardly get a parking space.
It’s a catch-as-catch-can thing at Goodwill; and I have found many very unique baskets there, as well as some I was totally delighted about because I had “missed” them before they were culled from a major store’s shelves. Goodwill is my sort of “Second Chance” source for those items, when I have waited too long and the next holiday is already upon us.
In my city, the baskets at Goodwill are always on a top shelf in any store. Sometimes I have to scrounge around and find an umbrella or golf club to bring them down to examine more closely.
That day, the minute I entered the front door, I spotted a fine, large double-handled hamper type basket I made a beeline for. It’s bigger than any other I have and would probably hold half a case of wine! It will make a magnificent gift basket for a custom order. No need for Fortnum & Mason when you have TheGiftingJeanie.
While I was wheeling my cart slowly along that shelf, looking up at all the other baskets, a youngish mother and her daughter passed me by. The little girl had a stuffed toy in a beautiful wooden basket! Just the sort of basket that I source at Goodwill.
So I pointed to the fine hamper in my cart and said to her, “I see I’m not the only one who lies baskets. Where did you get that? It’s exactly the kind I like!”
She said that she found it, “Over there – on a chair.”
So I wheeled my cart “over there”, and looked around – but no wayward baskets off the top shelf.
I have a feeling that my face revealed my disappointment. I was secretly kicking myself for not having gotten out of the house a little sooner.
Just at that moment, the little girl turned around, looked at me, and then broke away from her Mother, came over to my cart and put the basket in.
Her mother followed right behind and said to her, “That’s very nice of you.”
And I said, “That’s very kind and GENEROUS of you.” And, then I said, “I have something in my car that I think you should have. And I’m not a crazy lady. Let me get checked out, and I will meet you and your mother at the front door.”
I had not unloaded anything from the Christmas Market the day before save the live plants. And I picked up two small candy canes that I had given out as lagniappe, with my contact info attached on a tag, naturally. And I also got the bag of Christmas tree ornaments that I had made. I only sold one of them at the Christmas market — to a teenaged boy for his Grandmother!
I went back inside the store, but didn’t see the Mother and child right away. I suppose they had not really thought I was serious about that.
But it’s a small store, so I went and found them. I opened up the bag while saying that I had blue, green red and one darker colored one – and the little girl immediately smiled and said blue was her favorite color.
I reached in and took the first one out, explaining that each had a word on it. The little girl look about 7 or so, but I was not sure – so I called them out. “This one says ‘CHEER’.” She smiled, started to reach, but then held back. “And this one says ‘HO HO HO’.” No response. “oh – now this one says ‘JOY’.” And she smiled and said, “Oh, we are learning about that a church.”
“Well, then – this is definitely the one you should have – and put it on your Christmas tree. Everyone should have a little beauty in their lives,” I said as I handed it to her. Her mother thanked me sincerely. And then I said, “You tell them at church that the story about kindness and generosity coming back to you ten-fold is true.” Which I have always believed.
And with that, I thanked them both and left.
Later, I was sorry that I hadn’t even asked the little girl’s name. And I also thought that I had no idea if they would have a Christmas tree at all. The mother, probably in her 30s, was attractive – but the condition of her teeth revealed to me that there was a financial need which definitely explained their shopping at Goodwill. Then I wondered whether that stuffed toy WAS her Christmas present.
Hebrews 13:2 instructs us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
So the hokey Tarot lady said an Angel of Comfort was what I needed. And that little girl’s act of generosity, and her mother’s clear good raising of her child despite perhaps straightened circumstances, made me feel a lot less depressed about my own sorry situation – and optimistic about the state of the world, despite a lot of other nonsense going on in it right now.
And I knew on the spot that the basket she gave me is called “ANGEL“.
When I got home, I discovered that there’s actually a flaw on the bottom of the basket. And while I can neither repair nor hide it – it won’t make a whit of difference to the finished project. But I will certainly disclose it.
That got me thinking about “beauty” in general. There is beautiful on the outside, and there is beautiful inside AND out. In Japanese aesthetics, there is a concept of cruelty in beauty – and for that reason, they purposefully build an “imperfection” into things – such as a geisha wig – which will have some small loose tendrils because no no one’s hair is really “perfect”, nor would you want it to be. It has freedom and movement. The imperfection makes the beautiful object seem somewhat less unattainable.
And it also reminded me of the original Christmas story. Very humble physical surroundings – which became beautiful with the light of a star and the hope and promise of what was within.
This is a beautiful ANGEL. And I will shine some starlight on it – and hopefully, coupled with the background story of how it came to be, it will be transformed from the mundane to the beautiful in everyone else’s eyes as well.
Mother Teresa also said that, not only during the holiday season, but all year round, we should “give until it hurts”.
ANGEL will either be donated to a charity auction or the proceeds form its sale donated to Goodwill, which helps low income families.