do you smile as money leaves your pocket?

by rebecca on February 15, 2010

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       I try to see money as a connection point in my community. I see the same handful of clerks at my local supermarket every week when I buy my groceries. I shop at a bakery to buy bread. So, lately, every time I get out my debit card, I ask a question of the clerk.

       “What’s the best thing in your day so far?” I ask. Some people are put off at first, understandably so.  But most are glad to engage. I’ve learned that my grocery clerk is learning to sew, and the woman at our bakery plays tennis. It’s a friendly gesture, but I do it for selfish reasons.

       Historically it’s been difficult for me to let go of money. I’d rather have money for a trip to the beach than to buy bread. But I cherish being part of a team. When I can make the connection that my money pays the salary of people who do things like sew and play tennis, I feel glad to participate in the cycle of exchange. I like knowing that I support a real family with the swipe of my card.

       It was my husband who first helped me see that money was a way to turn strangers into acquaintances. He was a carpenter the first 16 years of our married life. As a worker man he had tools and a truck he had to maintain in order to keep his business afloat. When I’d complain about a plumbing bill, he’d look at the bill and marvel that a person could come to our home, spend 4 hours, pay for their materials, keep their truck running, hire the help they needed and still keep enough in their pocket to make the whole enterprise worthwhile. He helped me personalize every dollar I spent.

       That’s when my relationship with money shifted.

       Without the clerk who likes to sew and the baker who plays tennis and countless others, my grocery store and my bakery wouldn’t be open. Other places of business require a cooperative approach. My doctor wouldn’t have enough patients to make it worthwhile setting up a practice in our town if there weren’t a collective of us willing to use his services. I need hundreds of people willing to shop at my gas station to make it a viable place for the owner to do business.

       It might seem like a goofy way to view the world of finance, but I’m far more happy spending money when I think of it as an act of communal gratitude than a necessary evil. The money I spend each week on groceries, gas and services ties me to other people. It links us all together in a web that supports me as it equally supports my neighbors. Only then do I have a place to buy my fancy coffee, and a theatre where I can see movies and buy popcorn with my family.

       How about you? Are there altared spaces in your week that help you remember we’re all in this together?

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