During the last few weeks as I’ve been posting photos and sharing stories from our small town, several on-line friends have compared our life here in Bigfork, Montana, to that of a Currier and Ives postcard. Just a few days ago my friend Del Williams told me that I “live in a Hallmark card”. She’s right. That description fits our little mountain town perfectly.
For years, this sleepy little mountain town has been decorated with 2′ tall wooden Christmas gnomes scattered throughout the town. My son has wanted one of these gnomes as a holiday present for the past 10 years. Unfortunately they are handmade and not for sale, so this year I decided to make one for him.
My friend Mary introduced me to a woman named Debbie, who Mary thought could help me. I called Debbie and she referred me to a man named Ron. After talking with Ron, I realized he couldn’t help either. Determined to find a way to still create this gift, I took matters into my own hands.
I’m not one to draw artwork freehand, so I thought I’d trace one of the existing gnomes in town. The only problem was, all of them were already mounted on buildings 12′ or more off the ground and it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside. There had to be an easier way. So, I took a photo of a gnome, transferred it to my computer, plugged my computer into our television and put the image before me on our big screen tv. Then I placed a large piece of paper over the screen, traced the gnome image and voila, I had a template of a gnome.
I then took the paper pattern, traced around it on cardboard and cut it out. Now I just needed to find some wood and cut it out. I decided if I was doing this project, I’d make three gnomes- one for my son, one for my daughter’s family and one for us.
The next morning I called the local hardware store to inquire if they had 3/8″ plywood and a jigsaw in stock. As I described why I needed it, the man asked me to just bring the pattern in and talk to Bill. I drove to the store with the pattern and Bill was waiting for me. He wasn’t interested in selling me plywood or a jigsaw, but rather, told me he’d be happy to take the pattern home, cut out the gnomes in his shop from scrap lumber and would bring them to me in 3-4 days. I was thrilled at his kindness! I asked him how much he’d charge for this service and he smiled and asked if $10 would be okay. I told him that I’d be happy to pay him $10 along with a batch of his favorite cookies- and the deal was done. (Thank you Sliters!)
Early the next morning I was awakened by Bill’s call, telling me the gnomes were done and waiting for me. I picked them up later that morning after I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I was thrilled to get the gnomes and Bill was happy for the cookies- the perfect win-win situation.
The next step of this project required paint. I was referred to the art teacher at the local high school, as her class painted the existing gnomes in town. I called her to see if she had a template she could share, and she asked me to bring the wood into her students and “please allow them to paint them” for me. I asked how I could compensate her students for this huge favor. She told me that the school is always there to help the community and no payment was necessary. I offered to bake cookies for her class in exchange for the work and she gratefully accepted.
A few days later I baked brownies and more cookies, and headed into the school. I picked up the gnomes, painted a few finishing touches to them and I had an awesome, personal Christmas present made for my kids. And instead of costing me money for materials and hours of my time, I paid for the services in chocolate chip cookies. Just before Christmas I wrote a blog about how I’m making many of my holiday gifts this year. Little did I know when I wrote that blog, that I’d be making cookies to trade for presents.
I was thrilled by the simple acts of kindness that these folks displayed. Small town America is alive and well in our Currier and Ives little town. We’re so glad we moved here earlier this year. As my husband said when I shared this story with him, “There’s no place like gnome”. :)
The kindness of these strangers was an incredible gift to me and I’m very grateful for it. To Sarah and Bill, thanks and big hugs. Your generosity made our Christmas Day so much more special, because it was graced with the presence of our three gnomes. Your kindness once again showed me the true Christmas Spirit in giving to one another.
I’m inspired to find ways to connect and reach out to help one another like this during the upcoming year too. Never doubt the power of kindness, or of chocolate chip cookies. You never know what you might be able to trade for a smile, some cookies and a lot of gratitude.