Last Sunday I attended a little Christmas art fair at Old St. Pat's Church. I handled a shimmery-golden woodcut of a nativity scene from Bangledesh, marvelled at eggshells with miniature nativity scenes set inside them from Peru, ran my palm across bright green and red tablecloths from Indonesia and caressed religious figurines carved from the smoothest olive tree wood of the West Bank. They were items from Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit program that links Third World artisans with North American buyers like me who eat too much, take our warm beds for granted and act like the world is ending when we experience loneliness on a Saturday night. Ten Thousand Villages was created by the Mennonite Central Committee, which is a relief and development agency of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in North America since 1946 and that's all I know about it (from their website).
What I'm trying to say is that this is a good organization that does good work, so check them out. They have all kinds of items; the religious stuff I saw was picked especially for the church market. They help disadvantaged artisans who live under difficult economic circumstances such as cut-metal craftsmen in Haiti, traditional dollmakers in Vietnam and jewelry-making women in Ethiopia. Ten Thousand Villages promotes fair trade, pays its sellers promptly and buys items that reflect and reinforce the cultures they come from. You can visit their website or the Ten Thousand Villages store at 719 Main Street in Evanston (tel. 847-733-8258, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
I bought a small, soft-sculpture representation of the "three wise men" done in rich colors. It was an impulse buy partly motivated by my recent posting about how all the wonderful gifts are gone from my Christmases, but knowing my purchase was helping women earn a living in the Philipines also made the action easier. I brought it home and wrapped it that night while watching Alistair Sims in "A Christmas Carol." I made a point of not looking at the gift as I handled it: I just placed it in a box, covered it with tissue, and wrapped it in my favorite red foil paper. I will now anticipate it until Christmas Day. And just like that, a little bit of the old magic is back.