Making Your Money Count

Exploring what's inside Pottery Works.

One of the many old fashioned things I like to do is to mail handwritten thank you cards. I find joy in settling in to write on pretty handmade cards, carefully choosing my words, licking the envelope, applying a stamp and mailing a card. I think it reminds me of all the correspondence my grandma and I sent to each other over the years – back and forth in the mail, no email yet on the horizon.

This habit has extended to my place of work. I feel blessed that we now have families come to our health centre to share their stories, knowledge and wisdom with staff and students to improve the family experience.   Afterwards, I like to write a personalized note – not just saying a generic thank you – but cards express why I am saying thank you too.

I work for a hospital that cares for and serves children with disabilities. I am fortunate to know an awesome social worker there, who has the experience of going through rehabilitation herself. She is the person who introduced me to Pottery Works, which is a collective of artists who are overcoming challenges through artistic expression.

I’ve had a long week and I was out of thank you cards. I normally would have stopped at Chapters and grabbed a box of cards, but my friend’s recommendation was on my mind. Pottery Works has a retail store in New Westminster’s River Market. This is far away. But I got in my car and sweated through the classic semi and garbage truck gridlock traffic on Columbia Street to the New West, half-cursing my decision along the way.

I paid for parking and walked along the Fraser River waterfront to the Pottery Works store, which is tucked in beside the River Market’s administration offices on the second floor. It is a little corner display of colourful pottery and – jackpot! – hand-made cards. Artists who have disabilities create all the gallery’s work. These artists also take shifts working at the store.

I picked out a hearty tea mug with a bright purple flower. The young lady in the store showed me the cards – these ones have photographs, she pointed out shyly. I stood for a long time, choosing ten different cards. One with a photograph of flowers, another a power line with sneakers hanging off of it, another a picture of graffiti that said, ‘you are beautiful’. They are well-composed pictures, clearly taken by a photographer with a keen eye for lines and light.

I’ll take these, I said. A big smile broke across the face of the woman serving me. These are mine! she said. This is the best! she said. I smiled too, biting my lip so I wouldn’t start crying. I could feel the tears threatening beneath my eyes. They are great cards, I said, explaining that I work for a children’s hospital and that I would be sending out to families. It is super for families of younger children to know what is possible, I croaked out, trying hard not to succumb to the tears, thinking this would look weird or be upsetting. I flipped over the cards – the artist I was speaking to is named Sheri-Lyn Seitz. I work here too, she added, and I get paid. GOOD, I said – you SHOULD get paid. My tears were now rumbling furiously, almost at the surface.

Never had a simple retail transaction had so much emotional meaning for me. After Sheri-Lyn packaged up my purchase, I scurried off to the washroom and burst into happy tears in the stall.

I came to Pottery Works looking for greeting cards. I thought it would be cool to support artists who happen to have disabilities. I ended up buying cards because the photographs were lovely and the cards were well-crafted. I cried because this little extra effort of driving to this gallery ended up paying me back a thousand times.

Pottery Works reminds me what is possible for my son. All he – and others with disabilities, too – needs is someone to give him a chance. Pottery Works offers opportunity – and opportunity is everything. Here’s to spending our money somewhere that really counts.  It is worth the effort, folks.  Trust me on this one.


This post originally appeared on Sue Robin’s blog, and we are grateful to her for letting us republish this great story here. 

Sue Robins

Sue Robins is a mom to three - her youngest son is 13 and has Down syndrome. She lives in Burnaby and works as a Family Engagement Advisor at Sunny Health Health Centre for Children. She is also a partner in Bird Communications and a writer who has been published in the New York Times and the Globe and Mail.

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