A little more than a year ago I was walking down the streets of beautiful Oaxaca in search of handmade clothing for my shop. If you ever have the chance to go to Mexico, you definitely have to visit this charming city. You’ll be amazed by its cobbled streets, colorful churches, food, and happy people.
Just a few blocks from el zócalo (the main square), I found a small stall on the corner of a street with a table full of embroidered blouses. The blouses caught my attention right away. They came in bright colors and had huge flowers on them. There was a little boy in charge of the business and I asked him if he could give me the price of the blouses. After he shared the price with me, I told him I wanted to buy ten pieces. And in that moment, he turned around to see his mother, who was sitting near the stall. He shouted at her, “You heard that mom? She wants to buy ten!”, to which the mom simply smiled and nodded.
The kid must have been between six and seven years old, perhaps older. I will never forget the kid’s face the moment I said I wanted to buy ten blouses. His happiness was contagious, and it immediately became my happiness. However, after I left, I kept wondering why a small kid like him was selling clothes on the street instead of playing with other kids. Although, to be honest, it didn’t really surprise me too much considering Oaxaca is one of the most destitute states in Mexico. It’s very common to see kids working on the street, either selling chewing gum or cleaning windshields every time the traffic light permits.
But that moment made me reflect on the importance of our everyday jobs. Perhaps for that kid, selling ten pieces meant going home with enough money to buy groceries the next day. Or maybe it meant that he was going to be rewarded for a good day of sales. I want to believe that we all work because we’re passionate about what we do, but many times the reason is as simple as wanting to have a better future. Perhaps you’re bartending because you’re saving up for college. Or waiting tables to be able to travel the world. Or maybe you are working on a 9 to 5 job so that you can buy food to feed your children. Whatever the reason is, those day jobs serve a purpose.
In the end, it’s not about how much money we make, but what we do with that money. I know there’s a popular expression that says that money can’t buy happiness. But I believe money can be used to help pay for basic needs, health services, and pathways to dreams. And even when all our needs are covered, we generally feel the need to work because we are simply creative souls.
Two years ago, my online business was just a dream. It only existed in my mind. I dreamed about having an online clothing shop that would support the work of Mexican artisans. Nowadays the shop is real! Dressaraz was built from scratch and with very little money. It has grown with the help of artisans, friends, family, and loyal customers who believe in our mission. Whenever I feel discouraged, I remember my “why”, and I also remember that kid and his mom. When I wake up to orders in my shop, just like that little kid, my face lights up. And it’s not because of the money, but because of what can be done with that money.
Our why is what makes our jobs beautiful. What we do matters. It’s our offering to the world, and a way to show love to others. If we stopped to think about people’s whys more often, perhaps we would value others’ jobs more. Just think about it, if we all supported the ones who have less, perhaps they wouldn’t have to cross borders in search of work, or young kids in other countries wouldn’t have to work.
And when I say support, I don’t necessarily mean giving your money away. Perhaps you could help someone promote their small business by telling your friends about it. Or you could cook a meal for a friend who is struggling financially. There are limitless ways in which we can make a difference.
We have to stop putting labels on people, and calling countries “first” and “third” because we all come from the same world. The happiness of others is our happiness, and so is the pain. This is because we are all connected. Can you feel that connection?
So let’s support the hard worker, the creative, the hungry, and the lost. Let’s value the work of the janitor, the dishwasher, the cashier, the street seller, and the artist. Let’s support each other’s vision. A little help can go a long way.