This is my contribution to the APLS Carnival; this month's theme is "Buying Local."
When I was seven years old, I discovered that my friends received weekly allocations of money from their parents—for free—and this money could be traded for candy. They called it an “allowance.” I immediately went home and asked for one.
“Sure,” my dad, who worked in the economic sector, said.
“But first you have to tell me the name of each coin,” he announced, and spread out four different coins.
I frowned, and began studying. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. I recited their names over and over. Oh candy, you will be mine! I studied them forever (probably about 10 minutes) and declared myself ready for the quiz.
“Penny, nickel, dime, quarter!” I shrieked proudly as my dad produced each coin in turn.
“Great job,” he replied and ruffled my hair. “Now do it again,” he said, and shuffled the coin order. Crap.
I took that quiz a good five times before I had those coins down and an allowance was mine—all 41 cents of it. Penny, nickel, dime, quarter. After doling out the first installment, my dad tried to explain how money worked. “See this nickel? You won’t care if you have two nickels or a dime; they’re both 10 cents,” he explained patiently.
“But Dad, I would care,” I declared stubbornly.
“But they’re both the same amount,” he replied.
“I would still care,” I said, defending my nickel.
Flash forward more than two decades. My dad is an aging Republican who still works in the economic sector and I am his only child that was “accidentally swapped at the hospital.” The black sheep, if you like. My dad buys the cheapest tropical fruit at Wal-Mart without a second thought; I shop organic at my local farmers’ market. My dad picks up a bottle of Pert; I try making my own baking soda concoction in a recycled bottle. My dad laughs in surprise when I refuse to buy something made in China. “What do you have against the Chinese?” he asks.
“Nothing. I’m sure they’re perfectly nice workers,” I reply, thinking here we go again.
“Then why not buy their stuff?” he asks, bewildered. It is, after all, the cheapest choice, and I don’t exactly have cash coming out of my ears.
“Cuz I’d rather use my money to support small businesses around here, that’s why,” I said.
He scratches his head and puts his teacher voice on. “But honey, there’s nothing different between buying from a corporation and buying from a ma-and-pop store. The corporation has more workers to pay,” he explains, “so they need your money just as much.”
“The corporation takes my money and puts in the head honcho’s wallet. The small business uses it around town and it helps them stay in business with all the corporations in town trying to take over,” I explain.
“Why does it matter which town your money goes to?” he asks, still bewildered.
“Because I care,” I reply with a smile, and he ruffles my hair.
I still care … and my dad’s still cheap.