I admit it and my friends and family will attest: I’m a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the holidays. The obligation, the commercialism, the hype annoys me to no end. But this past weekend while working the soft opening of a new business venture and observing community events geared towards the holidays, I gleefully noticed an ever-so-slow shift in thinking that is beginning to build among us. Instead of just paying lip-service to the new economy and finding a different way of measuring success, we are beginning to DO it. We are beginning to measure success in relationships, community and shared experiences rather than dollars. I heard it in conversations at meetings, in interactions with local merchants. I saw it in the plans people were making together beyond the holiday hype.
I observed all this while hanging out at Virtually Sisters, a project/community development collaboration now housed at 16 West Beverley St. in Staunton, Virginia. The partners in the venture (me being one) dream of a collaborative space that is the container and springboard for micro business ideas in the Staunton area. Some people would call it an incubator. I disagree. It’s not a place to “hatch” something. It’s a place to showcase, and most of all, DO what we are passionate about. 16 West is a light socket, an electrical outlet, a generator plug, a stage, a virtual audience, hands to shield the wind while a spark bursts to flame.
Virtually Sisters has hosted two business/retail activities in the space so far–the launch of the new (h)Economy time bank, and a series of Holiday Pop-Up retail days for home/internet based businesses. In the coming weeks 16 West will be made available as inexpensive downtown work space, as a networking hub and as a showcase spot where micro businesses can be discovered and accessed in new ways– both through brick-and-mortar and virtual means. With so many cool things going on just below the surface of Staunton’s enormously creative community, 16 West will be a window to everything new and innovative happening right here.
So what shift in consciousness did I observe during these beginning events? People came together to share things they truly CARE about–families, friends, gardening/farming, crafts, technology, homesteading, art, music, photography, sewing, books–and began to build partnerships to help make their passions a bigger part of their lives. It was business mixed equally with the human need for relationship and joy. Sure, we all need to survive and earning money is part of the survival equation. But what if we measure our success by the ways we build partnerships and share ideas and help each other grow them? What if people equity and relationships return as our primary source of business and community satisfaction rather than purely economic measures? Seeing that happen makes this Grinch very happy.