HOME /// 400 Day LETS Odyssey - CONTENTS

400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

Oakridge Primary School, St. Catherine, where I spoke to a Grade 5 class.

CANADA - Niagara (Wk.4 of 5 weeks)
Week 32 of World Tour

Schools … Schools … Schools

This week was particularly unusual. Lorne had booked 3 appointments for me to speak to 3 school classes.

Tuesday, Jan 6 … speaking about LETS and my travel adventures to a Year 12 Geography class at Confederation High School, Welland.

Wednesday, Jan 7 … speaking about LETS and my travel adventures to a Grade 5 class at Oakridge Primary School, St. Catherine.

Friday, Jan 9 … performing my play, The Glory Of Athens, to all the Year 12 students at Confederation High School, Welland.

And each of these experiences was simply magic!

The Grade 5 class was a lot of fun. It was great to see their hands shoot up as soon as I’d ask them a question. So there were lots of questions being asked by me and lots of questions being asked by them in return. The period went for about 70 minutes, with the first half dedicated to sharing my experiences in different countries around the world, and the second half of the period dedicated to explaining how a LETS system could operate in their class.

But the highlight of my school experiences was definitely when I performed my play, The Glory Of Athens. And the best way to explain it would be to share a couple of testimonials from the audience. One from a teacher and one from a student …

>>> Hi James, As promised I'm getting back to you with a more detailed response to your performance of "The Glory of Athens" at école secondaire Confédération on January 9, 2004 ...

I must confess that I was a little hesitant to have you perform the play at first. I wasn't concerned about the script. I liked the text, having read it online. I thought it had lots of humour and the message at the end of the play is truly inspirational, challenging viewers to believe in themselves without reservation. What made me nervous was my knowledge of what a difficult audience high school students can be, especially when a single person tries to hold their attention for 90 minutes. We teachers find it a challenge to hold their attention for far shorter periods.

When you began your performance, however, my fears were quickly laid to rest. You captured our students' attention with the first line and never lost it. They laughed at the funny parts and listened attentively to the serious parts, and I could tell that the applause at the end was heartfelt. What impressed me most, however, was the way the students interacted with you in the question period after the performance. The quality of their questions showed how thoroughly engaged they were by your play.

The audience included about 40 grade 12 students ranging in age from 16 to 18, most of them being 17 years old. To tell the truth, if I had known how good your performance was going to be, I probably would have tried to include our grade 11 students as well. Although there is some sexual humour in the play, I don't think any of it would be shocking to teenagers who watch prime time television in North America. For that matter, that type of humour is not unfamiliar to anyone who has studied Shakespeare.

I should mention that I gave a brief history lesson to our grade 12 students the day before the play to furnish them with some background knowledge about the historical and mythological characters in your play. I also showed them a poster of the Parthenon so they would have that image in mind when it was mentioned in the play. Though the students probably would have understood your play without that lesson, I think the preparation probably heightened their comprehension. For example, because I explained the technique of Socratic dialectic to them, they were really able to appreciate the humour of your parody of Socrates' argumentative tactics.

Once again, thank you very much, James, for performing your play for our students. May all of your performances of "The Glory of Athens" be as successful as the one at École secondaire Confédération. Sincerely, Doug Janack (English Teacher, Confederation High School, Canada)

>>> Just a quick note to say that our students' enthusiasm was confirmed during further discussion on Monday. Donna and I have asked students to send emails to you. Doug Janack (English Teacher, Confederation High School, Canada)

>>> My name is Samantha, and I am a student at Confederation High School. I was in the groupe of grade twelves to whom you presented your play "The Glory of Athens" on Friday, January 9, 2004, and I really enjoyed it, so I felt I should let you know. I just wanted to send out a quick note to say that I was really blown away by your presentation: the acting, the humour, the play as a whole. It was really a wonderful story, a beaufitul message, and a fantastic laugh. It's just what we all needed on a Friday afternoon. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I was very impressed by the play. It was a great story line, and very well portrayed. We all had a lot of fun, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for having come. Best wishes in wherever and whatever life brings you! Cheers! Sam! (Confederation High School, Canada)

Giving my Christian Favours sermon at the
All Peoples United Church, Welland.

Christian Favours Sermon

LET Niagara know no bounds when it comes to finding an audience for me. And I must admit they even impressed me when they told me I’d be giving a sermon at the All Peoples United Church in Welland, on the Sunday I was due to leave for Kitchener.

Pastor Donna Totten is a great advocate for LETS, in fact, LETS Niagara use the church for their LETS meetings.

So she was very keen to have this Australian LETSaholic address her congregation, and educate them to the benefits of getting involved with LETS. She even preceded my sermon with a short example of trading, using trading cards with some of the children.

So my LETS Favours presentation was changed to Christian Favours, heavily reduced from 90 minutes to 20 minutes, and the supporting scriptures were Matthew 7:7-12 “Ask, and it shall be given you …”, which also finishes with the Golden Rule, and Matthew 25:15-28 “And unto one he gave 5 talents …”

The response from the audience was very supportive, so I’m sure there’ll be a few new members joining LETS Niagara soon.

Here is the sermon …

Christian Favours

My name is James Taris, and I’m a LETSaholic. That is, I can’t get enough of LETS.

For those of you who don’t know what LETS is, LETS stands for Local Exchange Trading System. It’s a group of people from a small community who all agree to exchange goods and services with each other, without the need for cash.

And once you've grasped the LETS philosophy, then trading in LETS points becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

My LETS philosophy is, "Don't think of LETS points like dollars. Think of them as favours. Christian Favours!"

The LETS group's function is to act as a bookkeeper for the members' transactions, keeping record of these 'favours' (also called 'beans', 'auras', 'shells', 'talents', thank yous', etc.) and putting the members' accounts into debit or credit accordingly. An account which is in credit identifies a member who has given more favours than he's received. And vise-versa.

I've been involved with LETS since 1994, and once I understood and accepted the principle of give-and-take with my fellow LETS group members, I quickly noticed a sharp rise in the quality of my lifestyle.

Having a limited income meant that I could only afford to pay for the essentials in my life: Rent, gas, electricity, phone, petrol, food, clothes, and so on. Everything else became a luxury, which I either did without, or chose to do myself.

But that all changed with LETS, because I found that I could at last enjoy some of these luxuries by offering a range of goods and services through my LETS group. Very soon I was mowing lawns, removing rubbish and painting rooms.
Later on I was also designing business cards, brochures and newsletters. And I even traded tiny picture frames, small bookcases and kitchenware.

In return I received massages, piano tuition and restaurant meals. Computer support, computer software and web design services. Greeting cards, teddy bears and bonsai plants. All of these goods and services would've been reluctantly by-passed if I had to pay cash for them. Thankfully, LETS made them all possible.

So how did I become a LETSaholic?

I was a professional photographer for 18 years, and in 1994 I decided that I didn’t want to do photography any more, so I closed my studio down and found myself out of work.

I’d heard about this LETS thing, where people could get things without using cash, so I found the nearest LETS group to my home, which was a 20 minute drive away, and I joined.

My offer to the LETS members was wedding and portrait photography.
And as I scanned through the LETS Directory, which listed all the goods and services being offered by the LETS members, I could see dozens of things which I was sure I could use.

Books, CDs and software. Piano lessons, computer lessons and writing lessons. Restaurant meals, bonsai plants and massages.

But first, I was going to wait for someone to contact me, because I didn’t want to risk being rejected when I contacted any of these people. After all, I knew that I’d be willing to give my photographic services without the need for cash. But how would they react if I asked them to do something for me, before I’d actually done something for anyone else?

But the phone never rang. And nobody called by. So I waited and waited. And even though the LETS group sent me a newsletter every month inviting me to their LETS Get Togethers, where I could meet other LETS members over a meal and drinks, I couldn’t get over my fear of rejection, so I waited, and waited some more.

Eleven months later, I was driving through the suburb where I knew there was a LETS event taking place, so I decided to drop in, but just for 10 minutes or so. I’d convinced myself that such a short visit wouldn’t be long enough to make me feel uncomfortable, and seeing it was already very late, I guessed it wouldn’t be going on for too much longer anyway.

So I entered through the office building, and being a warm summer’s night, the LETS gathering was taking place in the rear yard. And as soon as I got to the back entrance, a short and stocky young guy, about 23, came right up to me and shook my hand.

And he said, “Hi, my name is George. If you want any heavy lifting done, any manual labour, digging gardens, moving house, just call me and I’ll come and help you.”

And he wouldn’t let go. So I thought, maybe it’s my turn now.

So I said, “My name’s James, and I’m a photographer.”

“A photographer!” he said, then he started asking me all about it, and I immediately felt welcomed.

Then he took me over to meet some of the other members.

“This is Keith who does bicycle repairs. And this is Mary who does baby-sitting.
And this is Sue who does sewing.”

And Sue said, “If you’ve got any buttons missing from your shirts, or you want anything shortened or taken in, then call me and I’ll do those things for you.”
So in the space of a few minutes, I already felt like one of the family, and was getting annoyed with myself for putting off meeting these people for so long.

But then I said to George, “How come there’s only 7 people here tonight? I thought there were about 80 members in the group.”

And he said, “There were probably another 7 people here earlier on, but you’re late. It’s nearly 9.30 and we started at 7 o’clock. Some of them had to leave early because they’re working tomorrow morning. And others had to go home because they’ve only got baby-sitters for a couple of hours.”

So just out of curiosity I asked what those other people were offering.

And he said, “Joe does rubbish removals. And Louise does cooking. And Peter does massage.”

“Massage!” I said, “I’d love a massage!”

“Well”, George said, “Peter’s the best guy to give you a massage, because he teaches people how to do massage. I’m sure he’ll do it for you if you ring him.”

And with that recommendation, I rang Peter the next day, and Peter came over on the following Sunday and gave me the best massage I’d ever had. Actually, it was the first massage I’d ever had. But it was fantastic.

And I couldn’t help thinking that, here I was, unemployed, and enjoying a massage, a luxury which I had never experienced while I was working, because I could never justify having to pay $60 cash to have it done. But through LETS it was now possible.

Immediately I realised that these were helpful people with Christian values. And it was contagious.

Having seen how willingly they offered their services to me, I immediately added several other services to my list of offers. I added lawn mowing, painting and rubbish removals. And rather than wait idly at home for the phone to ring, this time I took the initiative to contact the members myself.

From now on, I thought, I’d do whatever I could to help the LETS members get more of what they wanted, because I’d experienced how good it felt for someone to help me with my request, and I wanted the other members to have that same amazing feeling.

So I gave and I gave, as a Christian gives, without even thinking about what I would get back. And yet, I got back so much more than anyone else in the group.

Then when I discovered another LETS group much closer to my home, I immediately volunteered to help them with their newsletter. This was only a very small LETS group of 15 members, and they only had a single-page newsletter. I’d seen how much better the newsletter was from the other LETS group, so I wanted to design one as good as that, and maybe even better!

But I’d never designed a newsletter before, so I was unsure about whether they would accept me. Fortunately, they were thrilled with my offer, and agreed to teach me how to do the job. They gave me a desk and computer to sit at, and with their constant supervision, I produced their first 12-page newsletter. In fact, I became so good at my new skill, that within 3 months I was earning cash from people outside of the LETS community.

I was designing business cards and letterheads. Leaflets and 3-fold brochures.
All types of forms and newsletters. I was now a professional desktop publisher, and no longer the unemployed photographer.

Over the years I’ve launched into a few other careers with the help of LETS.

A few years ago I developed an interest in web page design. And even though I tried desperately to build my skills by learning on my own, it wasn’t until I volunteered to take on the Web Site developer’s role for my LETS group, that it all finally fell into place for me.

And 7 years ago I joined a Toastmasters club to learn how to become a competent public speaker. But it wasn’t until I began my international LETS tours that my skills developed to a professional level.

And even though I’ve been writing since I was 12, it was only through LETS that I found the confidence to share my work openly, after taking writing classes with a LETS member and publishing my stories in their newsletters.

So all in all, these LETS experiences created a LETSaholic.

And if giving willingly of my time and skills to people who seek my help is regarded as addictive, then I’m proud to be a LETSaholic.

So I look at LETS points as Christian Favours, not dollars. And I participate in LETS trading with a Christian spirit, rather than being profit motivated. And I accept LETS as the perfect way to improve my lifestyle, as a supplement to my cash. And I’m grateful to LETS for giving me the opportunity to learn, improve or perfect my skills.

And you are fortunate that there is a LETS group in this area. It’s called LETS Niagara, and they meet regularly in this very building. So you don’t have to look very far to find them

LETS has been a divine discovery for me. And it’s changed my life. I’m sure it can do wonders for you too.

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

About the book

James Taris web sites