Can a yard sale change the world?
Yeah, I didn’t think so either, until I had one recently that made me change my mind. Oh, not because of the sale itself but because of a single transaction. There all my stuff was scattered around the yard, among which is a chair for sale for $5. Along comes my neighbor, a crazy old artist, who grabbed the chair and handed me this strange bill.
I said,” What’s this?”
“It’s $5. Keep the change!”
“But it’s blue!”
“I dyed it myself! It’s blue because it stands for my faith in the enduring value of a clean environment and a strong community.”
“That may be but you can’t just deface money!
“It’s not defacement so long as the bill is still negotiable!
“OK, but what makes you think this is negotiable?” I asked.
“Well you just took it!”
Embarrassed, I replied, “I mean would a bank accept it?”
“Don’t you dare take it to a bank”, she barked, “they’ll just turn it back into green money! Here, give it back and I’ll give you a green bill!”, and held out a normal five.
“NO no no, I like your concept”, I said, “but how do you know it stands for a cleaner world?”
“It’s printed right on the back!”
I turned it over, ‘Based on the value of a clean world!’”, I read. “But it looks like you just wrote that on it yourself with a pen!”
“Money’s only value is in its meaning to the people!”
“Well OK, so what does the green one stand for?”
“Oh come on,” she scolded, “it stands for profits at any cost; you know as well as I do that our economy doesn’t support a clean world!”
“What do you mean by that?”, I asked.
“Look- if you own a forest and you want to do something good for your town: turn it into a park, or a school to teach ecology, or a nature preserve to save endangered birds– all things that we value– will the green money economy support you? NO!” She was wagging at my face. “But tell the bank you’re going to clearcut it, take all the profits and leave the mess for us– they’ll give you all the money you want!! It’s like a giant Ponzi scheme- all the profits go to the top of the pyramid while they turn their money into debt and charge us interest to use it. Where do we get the money to pay that? Either digging up the earth or squeezing it out of our friends. That’s why I said ‘keep the change’; I don’t want any of your filthy green money!”
“Mabel, this is $5 exactly, there is no change.”
“Oh, that’s worth more than $5!” she assured me.
“How do you figure that?”
“Everybody wants blue bills! Where are you going to find another one?”
I hesitated, “Uh… from you!?”
She turned away and crossed her arms. “Get to the back of the line, buddy! I don’t know anybody that thinks destroying nature makes good economic sense! Think about your kids- can they build a future on a pile of garbage? ” Wag, wag. “ Nature is the only source of value and community is a part of nature!”
What I thought was. ‘I can see that with one glimpse at your yard!’ but what I said was, “Well of course nobody wants a dirty environment, that’s why we live in Montana…. But what about jobs?”
“Our job is to do what we love and to take care of each other!”, she demanded, poking me in the chest.
“Then how will we pay for everything?”
“WITH BLUE BILLS! A blue bill is just like a vote- every time you use one you are declaring your faith in the value of a clean world. Pretty soon the demand is so great that the Treasury has to print bills in blue, and you can’t get a loan for destruction because there is no value in destruction?! Then don’t you see what happens? The whole world has changed, and nobody got hurt!”, she declared, with the finality of the prosecutor resting her case. I had to admit it was a pretty compelling argument. But if you think that was weird, you won’t believe what happened next!
“Mabel”, I said, “There’s no doubt that you’re brilliant, but I also think you made this whole thing up!” You know what she did?
She patted my hand and said, “You’re a clever boy…” (I’m 57 bloody years old!) ”…yes, I left some money in the pocket of my new blue jeans when I washed them. Whacha gonna do? But isn’t it a great story?” And off she waddled with her chair.
I was crestfallen to realize that it wasn’t real because I loved the idea! I had heard her story and now I was infected by it! In fact I couldn’t get it out of my head and I told it to everybody I talked to that day. Every single one of them wanted the blue bill but there’s no way I was going to let go of mine! I made $250 on that sale, but that was nothing to the delight I got in thinking about the possibilities of a sacred economy based on positive values.
That night I suddenly sat straight up in bed with the most amazing thought: It doesn’t matter if she made it up; everything she said was TRUE! Through our green money economy we are still living out the outmoded destructive mythology of the industrial revolution, where all you have to do to get rich is destroy some nature. But in our hearts we already know that the only way we can survive into the future is in a clean world! And how do we express to each other what is of value? Through money!
We have already done the hardest work of changing our myth. Now all we need to do is change the symbol!
If the world is going to be saved it’s not going to happen from the top down, but from the bottom up, with wild ideas like Mabel’s. So the next day I bought some dye and started dying my own bills. I built this website to explain the concept and now you too have been infected by the story. From now on you can never think of a money transaction the same way again! We know the world is not going to be changed from the top down, but from the bottom us, by ideas from crazy people like Mabel.
The world is a big place and no one person can change it, even armed with a yard sale! But the world CAN be changed by simply changing the image in your own heart