Have you ever been intrigued when you see a title that says, “A Better Life?” This is what drew my attention as I spent almost an hour at Mardell looking at their book selection. I came across Rebecca Smith’s, A Better Life: Slowing Down To Get Ahead. As I picked up the book and read the summary on the back, something struck me. As I read the summary, it gave me a correlation to what I was about to go through when we moved to North Carolina.
This story was about a couple moving to Hamtramck, Michigan where 26 languages were spoken and the diversity of the population was significant. This is the part where I could partially relate because I was moving into an area where there’s more diversity in gender, ethnicity, race and languages. It was scary, but exciting at the same time. If you personally know me, you know that I have never lived out of West Virginia before. My home state is not very diverse due to lack of opportunity and closed-mindedness. On top of that, we are not big on drastic change and we’re about 20 years behind on culture and infrastructure. Don’t think I am bashing my state by any means. I love West Virginia with all my heart and have plans to return within the next 4 years.
The author, Rebecca Smith, writes about how she began to slow down, pay attention to her surroundings, and acknowledge the gifts God was giving her. Initially, Smith did not think she could belong in such a worn out town and feared for what could happen to her husband and her. This fear was coming from a culture barrier. We tend to paint a bad picture of these different cultures based on what the media has told us or what we may have experienced from the past. It is very difficult for us to leap over this barrier and make the appoint to get to know each other.
Smith’s journey began when she was sewing handbags as a hobby. What started as a hobby became a booming business called Better Life Bags. She opened up an Etsy shop and gave 10% of each bag sales to a low income entrepreneur overseas to use as a micro loan. Smith’s business presented to customers that by purchasing a handbag, they were providing a better life for those in need. How many times throughout our life do we look for ways to buy an item that has a purpose not just to us, but for someone else? Nowadays, there are companies that are finding ways to give back to communities rather than just hoarding all the profits. When we are presented with these campaigns, we feel better about why we bought the product.
As Smith’s business continued to grow, she seized the opportunity to help the local women by giving them a job to work for her. These women were given not just a source of income, but a purpose. What I really liked about Smith’s story was that she took the time to listen to each of her employee’s stories. She also took their strengths and incorporated them into her business. Each woman working for Better Life Bags. The women were grateful to work for the company and they worked hard. Smith authentically cared about the women and did everything she could to help them have a better life.
Another part of the story that spoke to me was when each bag was purchased, a card was also sent with the bag giving the customer the behind the scenes look at the employee who made the bag. The card would state the name, the country they originated from, and provided insight on their life story. Giving that piece of information to someone not only gave them insight on who that person is, but provided the consumer some education on those who are different from us. I think a lot of times, fear gets in the way and prevents us from knowing someone else’s story. In this day and age, we are too caught up in the stereotypes and mainstream media that it simply drives a wedge among all of us.
Many times, we are caught up in the fast paced world and overlook the small details and signs that are presented to us. We lose focus on those who have impacted our lives and got us where we are today. Hustling is hard, but slow living is becoming much harder. We no longer set boundaries because we’re chasing fame and/or fortune. Smith set boundaries on her business by not making it a franchise. She didn’t sell her business and took a permanent vacation. Instead, she continued to maintain the business’s status while taking care of her employees.
As I continue this adventure of living the military lifestyle, my goal is to slow down and pay attention to each moment, big or small. Regardless of differences, I want to take the time to meet those to cross paths in my life whether it’s a coworker, employee at another establishment, or part of the military community. Josh and I have a goal to live slowly and peacefully once we move back to West Virginia, but why wait until his retirement in four years? Why not start now? I think this is all we need to start thinking about. Slowing down and enjoying life.