Friday, October 17, 2014

Autumn Grace #17: Beauty and Justice for All (My Small Adventures)

This morning, while home schooling my third grader, I had a sudden brainstorm. My husband was about to leave for a visit to south Florida to see his sister's family for the weekend. Why not send the Melody with him for some Daddy Time and let her enjoy her girl cousins? What a great adventure she could have, all the better for being spontaneous. He agreed! Melody finished up her morning school work, grabbed some historical fiction books to read in the car, and packed a suitcase quickly. Then we drove down to Winter Park to meet up with him before he left town.

My brain wheels started spinning again. I'd be just a few blocks away from Ten Thousand Villages, one of my fav stores. They gather beautiful home decor, jewelry and other items from artisans around the world, empowering Third World families and communities to thrive by starting their own businesses. I love that concept!

So many pretty things, but I only bought a peace stone to go with my collection. I already have stones for wisdom and courage, as well as joy and hope.

Leaving the store, I realized that since I had no kids with me, I could take as much time as I wanted enjoying the shops on Park Avenue, the ritziest street in town. Yes! Not that I have that much money to spend on non-essentials, but I am an incurable aesthete who loves beautiful things, even if I just get to look.

I couldn't help but walk into The Spice & Tea Exchange. I just followed my nose.

The samples of cranberry spice tea and French bread chunks with spiced olive oil delighted my taste buds. The store is filled with coziness, whether it is the shelves filled with attractive jars of spices, or the amazing smells, or the tantalizing tastes.

The only thing I bought was a small tin of dragon fruit green tea mints sweetened with stevia. (I don't eat sugar!)

The clerk mentioned that the nearby Ancient Olive gourmet store and art shop is owned by the same folks, so I strolled across the street to take a peek.

I'm blessed to see that both stores carry artisan shortbread from Jane's Short & Sweet. I've known Jane Hursh for years, and she's a sweet friend indeed. All the profits from her company go to her charity, the The 306 Foundation. This organization serves at-risk women and children such as human trafficking victims. Jane teaches job skills through Toolbox4Life culinary classes as part of this. 

My final Park Avenue stop: Timothy's Gallery with all American art. The most eye-catching pieces are furniture from Sticks. Unfortunately, nearly $3,000 isn't in my budget! (I asked permission to take these photos.)

Again, I kept myself to a small purchase, a greeting card. 

"Dream great dreams, and then take the practical steps to make them a reality. - Henrietta Szold"  That's what the Ten Thousand Villages founder Edna Ruth Byler did. That's what Jane Hursh does. That's what Henrietta Szold did when she founded the largest Zionist organization in the world and devoted her life to humanitarian causes.

Visiting artsy places like these made me want to go home and do what I can to bring beauty to my every day surroundings.

Last night I worked in my bedroom, making my desk more functional and visually pleasing. This reminded me that I've been making the rounds at thrift stores lately looking for a recliner chair. I needed to replace the one in my bedroom that I got for free (curbside in our neighborhood) about 12 years ago. I had seen several, but they didn't look or feel right to me. I spend a lot of time in my chair and want it to be something I love love love. No ugly. No uncomfortable. So I held out.

Goodwill didn't have any chairs today, so I decided to go to ReStore (Habitat for Humanity) next. On the way there, I drove down the street where I often see my homeless friends. I slowed down and scanned the edge of the woods. Yep! I hadn't seen Marie in several weeks, but there she was in her wheelchair! I pulled over and we had a nice chat. I asked if she knew where a certain homeless man was, and her friend shook his head and said the man had died in the woods months ago. Marie said someone had dropped off a box of food that morning, and she had asked her friends if it was a lady in a red van since I sometimes bring stuff for them to eat. No, that wasn't me. I did give her several bottles of water. 

As we talked, I thought about what a contrast this was to Park Avenue where the wealthy spend money on luxuries without a second thought. My homeless friends are precious people, and as Marie says, every little bit makes a difference to them.

I don't mind spending a small amount on something pretty at a nice shop, but the best investment is in making a better world, globally or locally. That's why when I need to buy something, I'll often look in charitable thrift stores first. At least the money goes to help those who need it.

ReStore had several recliners for $55 each, but some were dirty and others didn't rock and weren't as comfortable. Rather than settle for a chair I didn't really like, I decided to make one last stop at Salvation Army. 

I found a comfy, clean La-Z-Boy recliner that also rocks and swivels. Perfect! Price tag? $119 - a bit more than at ReStore. Could I justify the extra expense knowing that some people don't have homes at all? Hmm. I had gotten by with a freebie used recliner for over a decade - until it nearly fell apart. I knew I would use this one for at least that long. And again, I'm not paying to get something ugly. Beauty is restorative to my soul, even if it is just a recliner chair. And the money is going to a great cause. Yes, it's worth it. What sweetened the deal is that at the register they gave me an unexpected $25 discount on it, bringing it down to about $95.

Looking back on my day, I am grateful for beauty of two kinds. The most obvious is beauty for the eye; art is a reflection of God's creativity. The other is beauty in the heart, showing practical mercy to those who need it most. This human kindness is a reflection of God's compassion.

I pray that I will have the faith, strength, and courage to create beauty just like that.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

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