By Ashley Lodato
When all of your worldly possessions go up in flames, you get a more acute sense of their ephemeral nature and you sometimes lose track of what little you have left. In fact, sometimes you’re not even aware that you actually have everything you own with you.
I became aware of this while hiking with a friend who lost everything in the fires. In addition to the basic items that one would usually take on a day hike, after about six miles my friend discovered in her daypack items like her toothbrush kit, her pajamas and a novel — just in case while in the course of hiking 17 miles with almost 9,000 feet of elevation gain and loss she wanted to, you know, take a break to read a book or floss her teeth. I suppose that if we had been caught out overnight we could have rock-paper-scissored for the pajamas and shared the toothbrush.
The next few months are a time for most of us to ask what we can do for our community, and one of the answers comes to us from Ben Franklin, who, among other things, organized the first insurance company in the colonies, to protect against losses from — appropriately for us — fire. Ben was one of the thriftiest of all statesmen and his frugality is honored by his likeness appearing on the $100 bill. Nicknamed “a Ben” (or “a C-note,” but that confuses musicians), the $100 bill is the largest bill in circulation in the United States.
To aid in a speedy fire/wind/flood recovery, the Methow Valley could use quite a few more Bens in circulation in its collective cash registers. There is a movement afoot, spearheaded by the Methow Conservancy, to get Methow Valley residents and visitors to pledge to “Spend a Ben” at Methow Valley businesses between now and the end of December. Anyone who commits to spending $100 at a local business will get a sweet Ben Spender bumper sticker and, most importantly, the satisfaction of knowing that dollars spent in the valley will help the local economy recover more quickly.
It’s not a fundraiser — it’s a pledge to spend money intentionally. If you’re going to buy something, buy it here. Whether you’re a visitor deliberately deciding to buy your groceries in the valley instead of bringing them with you, or you’re a resident committing to doing your Christmas shopping at local stores instead of online, or you’re anybody filling up your gas tank before you leave the valley, you’ll be helping to mitigate some of the losses that so many businesses suffered over the summer. Visit the Conservancy’s website, www.methowconservancy.org, for more information.