by Anna Veluz-Wilkins
Fair Trade Partner in Illinois
I have been noticing more and more the deliberate language taught to my kids about the importance of being kind. Whether it was sparked by the movie Wonder urging everyone to “choose kind,” or a response to the rising phenomenon of cyberbullying, or our growing lack of connection in a world dominated by technology and mini computers in our pockets, or all of that, I have welcomed this increased emphasis on just being kind to people – as our baseline. I see reminders everywhere to be kind. There’s even a hashtag!
Then I overheard this conversation between my two oldest:
Julia (9yo): “Jacob, will you buy me the iPhone 11?”
Jacob (12yo): “Juju, I don’t have that kind of money. And *I* don’t even have a phone yet. So, sorry, but I can’t get you the iPhone 11.”
Julia (her face now scrunched up with a look of hurt and rejection): “Hey, that’s NOT KIND!”
As Jacob stifled his laughter, I realized that Julia was sincerely hurt and that I should probably help her better understand what kindness really looks like. (For starters, I needed to disabuse her of the notion that being refused a $1000 phone qualifies as “unkind.”)
I recently read an article that helped me clarify my definition of kindness. The author wrote, “we are kind when we open our eyes and become active when we see people in need,” when we notice that someone (or many someones) could use a helping hand.
I can’t think of a better example than the community of women I partner with at Threads Worldwide. At Threads, we like to talk about our ripples of impact. Kindness works the same way, and it is ingrained in our work and our mission. It is inherent in our company culture, in the perspective we take with our fellow Fair Trade Partners, with our Ambassadors, with our guests and our customers. It underlies all that we do.
When I held my very first Threads Showcase to launch my business as a Fair Trade Partner, I was fortunate enough to do so with one of the company’s founders, Kara Valentine. I was so excited! And nervous. I was also running super late on my cleaning and food prep. In fact, it was just 30 min before guests were supposed to arrive and I could not, for the life of me, find ANY of the Trader Joe’s flatbreads I had purchased just 5 hours earlier to heat and serve as hors d’oeuvres at my showcase launch.
I was running around like a crazy person. Oh, and I should mention that I was trying to do this with my then-4-month-old in tow. I had literally just run from kitchen to living room to dining room to garage to entryway to family room and back to the kitchen, throwing things aside in a mad attempt to FIND. THOSE. FLATBREADS. Then the doorbell rang. It was Kara and her partner, Alison.
I invited them in, gave both huge (albeit anxious) hugs, then returned to flying around my house looking for the lost party food, all while explaining my seeming lunacy to Kara, who I had only seen once since college, and Alison, whom I had met literally 44 seconds ago. As I blew past Alison for the 3rd time, she calmly gestured for me to give her my baby. “Let me take her. Go do what you need to do. I’ve got her.”
I hesitated, not because I had reservations about handing my newborn off to people I’ve just met, but because Avery was a classic colicky baby with reflux, and we were fast approaching her witching hour when she would cry unceasingly for hours. (In retrospect, I could have planned for a better start time of my launch Showcase…). But realizing that I had 15 min to find and heat the food, pull out all of our wine, wine glasses, plates and napkins, and finish setting up the jewelry trays and put out the Showcase Exclusive flyers, I handed a 4-month old Avery over to Alison with an apologetically thankful look and dashed back into the kitchen, my explanation of her colic tendencies trailing behind me. That evening, as guests began to pile in, Avery started her fussing as anticipated. But Alison was amazing. No matter what Avery squawked about, Alison handled it, all while also continuing to look for those darn flatbreads (which, btw, we found a month later hiding under the bottom drawer in the freezer).
At subsequent Showcases, customers whom I had just met have offered to hold/bounce/feed/soothe my baby so that I could focus on telling the stories of our amazing Artisan Partners or help women try on our gorgeous pieces. Erin, my Chicagoland Threads partner in crime, has given up her Friday evening to help me at a particularly busy “open house” showcase just to support me. Andrea, my rockstar upline, makes herself available whenever I need advice and regularly reminds me to set boundaries for what is manageable in order to be kind to myself. One of our Artisan Partners in Guatemala, Marla, reminds her coworkers to put love into crafting each piece, sending women away until they resolve their negative mood so that every bracelet they make holds only kindness and good energy. You’d be reading this blog post for days if I continued to describe every act of kindness I’ve witnessed in my 7 months since joining Threads.
This company was founded with kindness at its heart, when Ang and Kara saw talented women around the world struggling to feed their children or keep themselves safe. So they did something about it. They acted with kindness and continue to do so every day, rooting Threads in the foundational belief that *everyone’s* contributions matter. I feel so fortunate to have this kickass community of women through Threads who provide constant, real-life reminders of kindness that I can share with my kids. So just a heads up home office – hope everyone is ok with Julia joining our next conference call….