Make Something Money Can't Buy (Glue Gun Optional)

By Julie Polter 11-19-2008

Since the early 1990s, a guerrilla campaign has been waged by Adbusters magazine and others to change the day after Thanksgiving into Buy Nothing Day (slogan: "participate by not participating"). Of course, buying nothing will be a given this holiday season for the many Americans struggling simply to pay for the basics-food, housing, clothing. Some of us who thought our faith in God was strong are finding ourselves haunted by anxiety as we watch retirement funds evaporate or enter yet another month of unemployment.

Perhaps we find ourselves in spiritual crisis as well as financial crisis. To find our way to an economy in balance with God's call on our life, we can begin by not just buying nothing, but making an investment in God's currency of grace.

Last year, members of the San Diego-based Ecclesia Collective, a Christian community network, put forward Make Something Day (see Jason Evans' post earlier this week). In this new spin on Buy Nothing Day, people are encouraged to turn their resistance to consumerism into positive, productive action by gathering with friends and family to share Thanksgiving leftovers and make crafts and fruitcake and mix CDs, instead of going to the mall.

Perhaps, like me, you suffer from craft anxiety (glue guns don't make ugly Christmas ornaments, people like me do). Or maybe Make Something Day seems a little naïve for hard times, trying too hard to counter a culture that may be down for the count. With the overstuffed "good life" being sold to us on every flat surface, the fact that making something may be the only prudent option when it comes to stuffing stockings or having dinner can seem at first like loss, not gain.

Yet hands and hearts are truly amazing things, and the works they produce can be suffused with love and memory and individuality in a way that money really can't buy. If yarn tangles when it sees you coming and Martha Stewart gives you hives, think computer-aided and functional: Make a hard-copy, hold-in-your-hands album of photos for that relative who hates digital; type up your childhood memories or those of family elders and bind them in simple booklets for the younger generation; compile family recipes for sharing. Make a gift certificate for a far-off friend, promising at least one handwritten letter a month for the next year (and then make a solemn promise with yourself to follow through).

Make a commitment of presence or treasure to your local food bank or homeless ministry. Make an interest-free loan. Make an offer of mentoring to others in your community. Make someone happy. Make an apology. Make someone know they are loved.

Julie Polter is an associate editor of Sojourners. For more of her thoughts on Advent, see Re-Rooting Ourselves in God, her commentary in the December issue.

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