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Buy Nothing Day: Give the Gift of Knowledge

knitting hands

Black Friday.

Buy Nothing Day.

One day. Two entirely different views of how to spend it.

Black Friday, at its sanest, can involve a hot drink and a warm computer. If we are being honest, I am a big fan of this kind of Black Friday shopping. Give me a search engine and a burning lust for a new toy lens, sweet knives (last year's indulgence) or a tablet PC for the kitchen (this year's desire) and I am a happy mage indeed.

But the stores? That's another thing entirely. I think you have to be a wee bit crazy to want to go to an actual store today. People have died. That's not hyperbole. People have died. For cheap TVs.

Buy Nothing Day sits at the other end of the spectrum.

The idea for Buy Nothing Day comes out of the Pacific Northwet, where Vancouver artist Ted Dave proposed a 24 hour moratorium on spending as an anti-consumerism protest. Since 1992, this simple idea has spawned a variety of enlightening and entertaining protests. (This year's activities at AdBusters.)

This is an idea that resonates with people for many reasons, not the least of which is the truly horrible economy. With so many folks out of work, or marginally employed, the entire consumer frenzy can seem a bit distasteful at times.

So, when Lara Alexander of food.soil.thread invited me to co-host a Buy Nothing Day blog hop  it was a perfect fit for my current mood. A chance to help spread the message that we have enough. I was in.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I will succumb myself at some point, but for today, I have the warm glow of Thanksgiving telling me that I have enough. More than enough. So many of us do.

My first thought was to share some DIY kitchen gifts. Lavender sugar. Cook's basket of herbs. Stuff you can make and share with other people who love food. One problem: it's still more stuff and you'd probably have to buy supplies and this isn't "Buy Craft Supplies Day" so I felt like anything that required shopping was missing the point just a bit.

I stuck the problem of alternatives to buying gifts, or stuff from which to make gifts, in the back of my head and went on with my Thanksgiving preparations. theKid came down and we spent the better part of a day in the kitchen together. While we worked, I found myself offering her lots of small tips on technique as we discovered things she had never done before. Just like Mimi, my grandmother, had with me.

I remembered that Mimi had always made a point of recruiting people to unfamiliar tasks so that every day in the kitchen was an education.

An education. Aha!

Some days I am a bit slow.

I have a plan. This year, give the gift of knowledge.

It's actually straightforward: you know something that other people want to know. There is your gift.

The odds are that you actually have many talents from which to choose, giving you options for different friends and family. I could teach someone to bake bread or make great biscuits; create a killer PowerPoint presentation or organize a written argument; sew a shirt or reorganize and streamline your kitchen; build a computer or a network. My skill set is broad and often a bit bizarre.

So are many other people's aparently.

My Thanksgiving celebration included about 20 people and I asked some of them what they might teach others as a holiday gift. Some people struggled with the idea at first; One man said emphatically "Clean your room!" I asked if this meant he had a system that worked for him and he laughed saying he'd have to come up with something else. Within an hour, he was explaining some of the finer points of creating gorgeous, high-quality tied dyed clothing.

As I asked other people, I got a variety of answers, along with a few quick lessons in doing certain things just a bit better.

  • How to make great scrambled eggs. (I am planning on having J make eggs for me one day so I can document the process.)
  • How to sprout seeds, nuts, etc. (Rinse often, drain well, put in sunlight as soon as they sprout if you want bright green sprouts.)
  • A friend who does professional bodywork offered "Skeletal Awareness" explaining that she could prevent injury and help people optimize their posture and other core aspects of physical movement.
  • theKid chose knitting as her skill to teach.
  • Another friend delighted me by bringing something that fit the bill: a cute little recycled pie crust storage/rolling kit. I brought it home and will dissect it for your edification next week.

What was most interesting to me was the response to the responses. Someone would mention something they might teach and someone else would say, "I would love to learn that!" Heck, someone made a joke about teaching PowerPoint and the woman who does bodywork jumped at the idea only to be told it was a joke and he didn't know how to use it either. I quietly offered that I did, in fact, know the application and a couple of people perked up. (Sad, I know.) I never would have guessed someone would think that was a good present, but apparently I was wrong.

What I am saying is that you know things. Even if you don't know what it is, you do. Think about what people ask you about, or ask you to make, or topics on which others turn to your expertise. Ask friends (and return the favor).

How are you opting out of the consumer craziness this year? You can share your ideas with us in two ways.

  • Leave a comment and join the conversation about what you are doing instead of spending money.
  • Participate in the blog hop. Share the link to a post that describes a way that you opt out of the demand to be a consumer. Your link will be displayed on all three of the sites that are participating in this blog hop. (I love smart code!) You can post a link any time on Friday Nov 26th Thanksgiving weekend and, of course, the linked posts will remain visible afterwards.

Stop by food.soil.thread and check out Lara's thoughts on Buy Nothing Day. Amber DeGrace is also hosting so be sure to hop on over to her site, and see what she is doing instead of spending money today.

Buy Nothing Day Blog Hop



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