41: Pass on the Party

41: Pass on the Party

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Pass on the Party

This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.

~Alice Waters

I used to love those “home parties” where a friend would invite the gals over to pitch cookware or jewelry or designer baskets. We “guests” would chat and sip Sangria while the “hostess” demonstrated the latest make-up trend or showed us a great new gadget for chopping cucumbers into fifteen distinct shapes. Then she’d pass around the order forms as we nibbled tiny pastries and decided what to buy — because we always felt like we had to buy something.

“Just come for a girl’s night out, it will be fun!” the party-thrower would insist beforehand, but those evenings rarely ended without all attendees opening their checkbooks.

Somewhere along the line, these purchasing parties began to lose their appeal. It seemed suddenly everyone I had ever come in contact with had me on their invite list, peddling a dizzying array of consumer products. There were events pushing charm bracelets, designer stationery, wine, nutritional supplements, children’s books, T-shirt appliqués, lingerie, gourmet chocolates, even “fashions for the well dressed pet.” And thanks to the Internet, declining an invitation due to schedule conflicts or family illness was not even an option.

“You can attend electronically!” the hostess would gush whenever I hesitated about my participation. “I’ll e-mail you a link, just click on it and you can see what we’re offering and order directly online.”

Of course, this meant no munchies, no social interaction, just fork over the money and we’ll drop your merchandise in the mail. Even so, I kept on going, often begrudgingly, enjoying the food and fellowship less and resenting the pressure to purchase more.

The worst part about being on the home party circuit was the stuff I was steadily amassing. Stuff I did not need. Stuff I did not really want. Stuff I bought out of a sense of obligation, then tossed onto a back shelf or stacked in the garage.

So when the mailman delivered a little cream-colored “you’re invited!” postcard from my neighbor Marlene, I was dreading having to either make up an excuse or write another check. But to my delight, this invitation was very different from the other get-together requests I was used to receiving from family and friends. Her card read:

It’s a Pass It On Party!

Bring something you bought and never used

Share the story of when, where and why you got it

Enjoy refreshments while telling your tale and listening to others

All items will be donated to our local elementary school’s silent auction

I actually laughed out loud reading this incredible proposal! After years of acquiring unnecessary things, I now had the opportunity to hand merchandise off to people who could really benefit from it. All while enjoying the best part of these events — gathering with friends and trying something new. I immediately sent Marlene my acceptance, then spent a good part of the afternoon going through my “home party inventory” to find a suitable contribution to the cause.

The Pass It On Party was the best girl’s night out I’ve ever had. We sat in Marlene’s comfy family room sampling veggie trays and tea sandwiches as each woman took a turn showing off her treasure and describing the circumstances under which it was obtained.

“I really thought I needed a 30-piece cake decorating set,” my friend Patty laughed, pointing to the large box beside her. “When I ordered it I had visions of birthday parties with cakes that looked like some prize-winning project from The Food Channel. Of course that never happened, and the kids have been perfectly happy with plain old cupcakes and frosting from a jar.”

Sarah held up a collection of still-shrink-wrapped make-up brushes, fanning them out so we could see all eight. The smallest was about the size of a toothpick, and the big one looked like it was designed to put bronzer on an elephant. “Why did I ever think I had to have these?” she said, rolling her eyes. “They’re supposed to be made of Angora rabbit fur or mink or something; I don’t remember. Maybe I thought I could use them to clean around the house?”

And so we made our way around the sofa, simultaneously admiring and deriding the assortment of superfluous stuff. Our assembled lot included my canvas handbag with a dozen interchangeable covers to complement any outfit, a gold necklace and matching earrings sporting an Egyptian pharaoh motif, two gallon jugs of “miracle cleaner” guaranteed to get ANY stain off carpeting, a nested set of blue plastic serving bowls with matching lids, and four different configurations of scented candles in various decorative jars. The night was fun and funny and therapeutic. Everyone had a great time, and no one had to write a check.

About a month later, I got another postcard from Marlene. This one said:

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Pass It On Party! Through your generosity and the contributions of others, our school earned over $3,200 from the silent auction. The money will be used toward new play equipment. You’ve made a lot of children very happy with your donation! And if you enjoyed our get together and think this type of party would work for your event, be sure to pass it on!

~Miriam Van Scott


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