This past weekend we attended a trading post organized and hosted by friends of ours. This was the first event of its kind that had been hosted and attended. The day was beautiful in every possible way. There was a giant glowing Christmas tree, good food, but most of all great people.
So this is how it worked, we were all asked to bring things from home that we had made or were in good condition but had no use for. In addition, it was requested we bring some baked goods for the snack table. We were to come prepared with our items ‘priced’ using a point system (1 point per 25 cents). The points were intended to be a guide to trading value, especially to help the little ones involved. We piled our contributions onto tables set up in a very large living room which used to house an indoor pool. There were six families participating, most of which were larger than ours. The event began with an introduction about what we were going to do and a reminder to embody the spirit of generosity. We went around the room to each table and did a quick show and tell of the items we’d brought and their point values. This allowed us to get an idea of what we all had to offer, but more importantly it gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the larger group. After the introductions, the bartering began. The understanding was that there would be no ‘forced trades,’ meaning that a trade had to be mutually agreeable, and we all had the right to say no. The points were definitely used as a guide, as people were very flexible in their bartering, often choosing to consider what was being offered rather than an even points for points trade. I brought home many fresh baked goods and handicrafts, most of which will find their way under our tree this year.
The tone of the afternoon was what stuck with me the most. The day lacked traces of competition or judgement. It was anything but the bustling feel of a shopping centre. There were many children in attendance, and rather than being forced to ‘behave’ in an overstimulating environment, they were encouraged to participate. Many contentedly played with toys around the room when they were finished with their own trading pursuits. The children were allowed to be children; excited and playful. Unlike most adult parties that children attend over the holidays, there were no expectations from adults to hear platitudes of thanks. The children were granted the freedom to manage their own trades. The utterances of thanks and gratitude were genuine, heartfelt, and meaningful. The interactions between children and adults were rewarding because they were mutually respectful. The trading allowed children to feel their own success and achievement after a trade. The parameters of the event levelled the playing field between child and adult – which is such a rare occurrence. There was tangible joy and such a spirit of giving in the air!
I would say much of the joy I felt that afternoon came from being included in playfulness myself. The children were allowed to rise up to meet the adult world, but as adults, we were also invited to engage our own sense of gaiety. Something about the afternoon struck up the magic of Christmas I remember from my childhood – a carefree approach to joyousness. Presence. We were forced in a way to be present with our trading partner, both wanting to come to a mutual agreement over the deal. Despite the hubbub of the room, we had to attend to the one who stood before us, humbly requesting a trade. Creativity abounded as people tried to figure out how to come to a decision together.
Most of what was offered was consumable, except my table of ex-craft show jewelry, painted ceramics and whatnots cleared from my home during our recent purges. Items were offered in earnest. No one came with expectations of what they’d bring home, it was rather an opportunity to experience something different. We were instead opened up to possibilities…potential. I have found that when I can approach something with an open mind and heart, this is where the opportunities I could not have imagined myself find a spark. I didn’t know anyone else in attendance other than the family who invited us. It became clear quickly that we would be able to easily come together, because our conversations had focus over items we’d made or brought. It was very easy to strike up a conversation with someone I’d never met before. A community feel was born as we buzzed in one common space for separate but common goals. There were no awkward silences, or feelings of not fitting in, just a general acceptance of what we all had to offer, in all senses of the word. Conversations over trades turned into conversations of our lives. It was beautiful.