The Seed That Bloomed Into Wisdom Crafts
Feb 8, 2011
Its always amazing to watch a small, whole-hearted action ripple into something way beyond your wildest imaginations.
Sometime last year, CF'ers of GreenMuseum held an event that explored the intersection of art and gift. At the reknowned Headland Center for Arts, the event was 'sold out' before we could even invite others. Still, I invited one additional guest -- a woman in her seventies, who is a profound artist and also a spirited gifter. I thought she'd enjoy the evening.
The whole event was totally energizing. Myself, along with a crew of dozen CF volunteers, put on a 'Karma Kitchen' experience for everyone. People seemed quite surprised that we willingly signed up to wash the hundreds of dishes from our seven-course meal! There was lots of beauty all around, as Sam and Anne had heartfully orchestrated the smallest details on each table. Every table centerpiece also had an envelope in which folks could leave notes and money. While we never learned how much total money the Headlands received, or if they broke even or not, we did get many touching notes.
One of those notes, suprisingly, was addressed specifically to me. On the biege hand-torn piece of paper read: "Dear Nipun, I would like to invest in your generosity products." Incidentally, it was from that one woman I had invited. I'm not sure how she intuited the idea, but I wrote her a note thanking her for her kind gesture and explained that we don't do investment and neither do we sell any products. I also informed her that I was headed to India the next week, and could catch-up at a later point when I return.
Her email response was even more surprising than her original note: "You will need financial resource before you go. What amount would be helpful there?"
Rather moved by her generosity, I wrote about the CF's guiding principle: "We see donations as offerings made to monastics -- whatever is offered is exactly what is needed. Hence, we never specify an amount. More than the amount, it is your love underneath it that nurtures us. Thank you for that blessing."
The next week, CharityFocus had received a check for $5000.
I didn't realize that I would have a good use for the money in India, nor did I realize that this woman's original intent of investing in product would be validated.
In India, Meghna started the Wisdom Crafts project. Beautiful handicrafts with a wisdom-filled message, offered on a gift-economy basis. Products without a traditional price-tag. We were gifted a rack of shelves at our friend's Gramshree store in the popular part of Ahmedabad (India). Meghna started putting the dots together and filled the shelves with products ranging from frames with hand-written quotes to Peace Chains to Smile Decks to clocks and t-shirts with a message! A logo was designed, the concept was articulated (and transcribed in the local languages), the store staff was oriented with new explanations and processes. On that trip itself, Wisdom Crafts went live!
That was June 2010. We bought the original inventory from the gift that we had unexpectedly received. Then, like all gift-economy efforts, it was upto the consumers to carry the chain forward. And boy, did they pay forward. Six months later, Wisdom Crafts continues to sustain itself with full gusto -- so much so that it has now spread to another rack at the Gandhi Ashram and there are talks of it being tried at the Urban Ashram in Pune. Designers are offering up designs, everyday folks want to build products, and ideas are coming in from all directions. Recently, the CEO of a big technology company invited me to meet with his team; in every hallway of the office, lo and behold, were wisdom crafts! If anyone walks into the Gramshree store, the staff will narrate beautiful stories of people's reactions when they discover that there is a place where wisdom still comes without a price.
One never knows how all these things of beauty interweave together.
Meghna, who launched the Wisdom Crafts project and continues to be its chief visionary, was visiting the US when our Giftivism event was held. In fact, she was volunteering right by my side, as we washed all those dishes with a heart full of love. Just casually, she had even met the 72-year-old woman who unconsciously ended up supporting her vision. When Meghna and I were cracking jokes and enjoying the event, we had no idea of the fruit that was contained in that seed. And perhaps that's the best part of the story. :)