Here’s the latest column I’ve written up for Random Lengths News. Just sent it to my editor a few minutes ago. It’s a fluffy, happy column on how awesome Sharon and Jewell are 🙂 I love them and I love their “swap”! I hope you enjoy this one – I really enjoyed writing it up.
“Real Good Will: A Visit to the 710 Swap”
by Jennifer Tehani Sarreal
In our Capitalist society, it is both an American mass-consumerist byproduct and cultural norm to collect inevitable piles of “stuff” – particularly during the holidays – that have no particular function (nostalgic or otherwise) in our lives. In this country, we need look no farther than garage sales to understand that the purging of physical collateral is not necessarily indicative of an impending change of residence.
With good intentions, items are recycled by the consciously green, creatively up-cycled or re-fashioned by hipsters and hoards more are generally donated to a local Good Will to be sold at a much cheaper price – perpetuating our primary conception of exchange to be monetary while maintaining that feel-good sensation of paying it forward somehow. With many families still recovering from the recession and an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, it would only increase the feel-good factor to know that our discarded things traveled directly to where they were needed: to our friends, our neighbors, actual people in our communities who could benefit from these items as they are without alteration.
Since my first introduction to the 710 Swap in Long Beach, I have unceremoniously exiled myself from the land of second-hand stores forever and vowed to never look back. When the changing of the seasons alters my waistline and consequently limits the number of lightly worn usable clothing in my closet, I pack all of the cloth reminders of my weight loss (or gain) along with unneeded household items into a Trader Joe’s paper bag and anxiously wait for the third Friday of the month to arrive so I can de-clutter my apartment and build a sense of community at the same time.
The 710 Swap is a contemporary twist on an ancient idea. Bartering has always existed. It is said to go as far back as 6000BC in Mesopotamia, but we all know it’s as old as our species. We’ve all bartered whether we knew it or not. Bartering, the simple act of an exchange without currency, happens all day. Teenagers switch bags of chips with each other at lunch time. Siblings exchange clothes. Adults swap drinks nightly in our local bars. This system of exchange reemerged in popularity on a grand scale (amid our already established standardized Dollar) during The Great Depression – a similar time of little money and plenty hardship.
Affectionately named after the Long Beach Freeway, “The Swap” embraces this useful idea of bartering, but from a refreshing angle: sharing is the ultimate goal. There are no credits received or items counted in the giving or receiving. This innovative monthly event is founded on the simple motto “Share what you have. Find what you need”. A project of Catalyst Network of Communities (a local 501c3 non-profit social impact organization), the 710 Swap is the best communal antidote to domestic clutter and neighborly disconnection.
Literally armed with colorful paraphernalia hanging from large plastic IKEA shopping bags at my elbows, I walk across the parking lot adjacent to Rite Aid toward the MADhaus on Pine Avenue on a third Friday. Blues music saunters through the wind from the free outdoor music concert just behind my destination, seemingly pulling at my feet in a rhythmic drawl and allowing me to slowly savor the wonderful concoction of good music and the chilly night air. Attending the 710 Swap is always a magical experience. Now a part of the Historic Old Pine Avenue’s Twilight Walk, swapping has found it’s new home at the MADhaus (a performance space and gallery dedicated to supporting local artists) which was generously donated for the last year and a half by Mike Wiley.
I walk inside to the smells of a gastronomic playground of holiday tamales, an assortment of desserts and savory appetizers to nibble on. The sounds of gentle music in the background accompany the cheerful chatter and laughter of participants eating and waiting for “swap time” at exactly 7:10PM. I am quickly greeted by 710 regulars: Jewell Faamaligi, a co-coordinator of the event; her daughter Jessie and Sharon Moiseiff, the creator and founder of the 710 Swap. I carry my items to the center of the room where others’ are neatly displayed then return for a plate at the potluck to munch and socialize with old friends and some new ones.
Swap time begins, and it is not the life-threatening Wal-Mart-on-a-Black-Friday style stampede one would imagine. People walk around slowly, pick things up, put them down, wait to make sure no one else is eyeing it, eat, chat, laugh… It feels like a warm gathering of friends. I look around in amazement at the beauty of the scene. In our self-imposed world of material things used and discarded, a flower emerges from a crack in the sidewalk: real good will at work.
*Visit the 710 Swap at: www.710Swap.com