I spent three days in Atlanta at the Gift Market this week, sourcing items for my antiques and gifts business which is located in Southport, NC. This is a very part-time business, although I have had it for more than thirty years. I decided to go to the market this year to see what’s new, and to gauge what is selling. I was overwhelmed by all that is available. Whether you have a business like this or not, if you can, go to the Atlanta Gift Market once, and see where all the gift shops source their merchandise. You will never want to pay retail ever again.
The showrooms were full of beautiful items, everything imaginable. Since I have a need for beauty, not just a want, I was in my element. I thoroughly enjoyed the hours spent looking at beautiful items, many of which were also functional. There were items at every price point. I bought from some vendors I have shopped with previously and also bought a couple of new lines.
Mike accompanied me to Atlanta, although he did not go to the show. We stayed in a hotel at Centennial Park, which was less than a ten-minute walk to the showrooms. Since I love to walk, I was glad to be able to do so. Although I enjoyed the exercise of the walks to and from the show, I did not enjoy some of the scenery.
Atlanta is no different than many cities these days, especially these days, with more homeless people than ever before. Although some of those living on the streets seemed to be zoned out, most that I interfaced with were respectful. I only felt afraid once. Some did ask for money, but they did not push when money was not given. My predominant thought about them was “there but for the grace.”
It was impossible for me to miss the juxtaposition of the opulence of many of the showrooms and the lack of even basic human needs being met in the men (all that I saw were men) living on the streets. At times when I was in the Atlanta Gift Market, enjoying the merchandise in the showrooms, the men I saw on the streets flashed through my mind. I even had the occasional thought that the merchandise in the showrooms was so artificial, and the needs of the men on the streets so real.
How are we to deal with the homeless problem? What is the right thing to do about giving money, or not? I am never sure. I did give one man $5 for his assistance with parking, and he remarked, “The homeless have something to offer after all!”
I think it is fine to enjoy the beauty all around us, and all of it certainly is not just found in showrooms. There is plenty of beauty in nature, and we should not be so lost in our devices that we miss it. But while we are enjoying the beauty, we should not lose sight of those we pass who seem to have lost not just the beauty of possessions, but who are living without even the basics of shelter and food. How can we allow basic human needs of some to not be met while so many are living in excess?
I do not have the answers to these questions. But asking the questions is a start.