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Sthanashraddha reflects touchingly on the final days at Windhorse:Evolution, Triratna’s ethical gift import and retail business in Cambridge, UK, which closed last month after trading for more than 30 years.
“It was a sad Monday morning back in January when we gathered together in the dining room - the majority of the warehouse staff and almost all the managers from across the chain of Evolution shops - to hear Keturaja’s announcement. A very small handful of people already knew, and most of us had guessed the outcome as we watched the sales figures over Christmas come in. Some were truly expecting to hear a plan of radical reorganisation. But of course he was actually announcing the decision to close down the business - as smoothly and cleanly, with the same care and human kindness to all that our company has been known for over all its years of trading.
We then entered a strange bardo where people found little ground to stand on and we all to different degrees either allowed the unknown to rest beneath our feet, or made mental or physical moves to fix the ground again and find some sense of certainty to dwell in.
My job as visual merchandising trainer to the stores evaporated when the announcement was made, given that my job was based on there being a year ahead for which to plan and train people and prepare displays. So I found myself thrown back on my bare reasons for being at Windhorse: I had come to serve, to help Triratna thrive; I wanted to work with other like-minded people; and I needed a basic income and a roof over my head. Yet I have gained so much more than this from my time working in the business. I’ve grown over the 14 years of my adult life within the community of this enterprise.
So I did whatever needed doing, moment to moment. I picked orders of stock to be sent to the stores while they were open, making the huge effort to clear the last of the stock for half its retail price. I helped out in the samples room, labelling for the closing sales show for wholesale.
I worked alongside guys from the warehouse teams and people from the offices as we invited the public into the building to pick over our office furniture and haggle over the price of stationery and plumbing parts!
I couldn’t say ‘I don’t want to do that’ (though at times I did). It was a great time to face my fixed ideas, my hopes and fears, my pride and arrogance. It was very busy and when the shops began closing down, in batches, I went out helping to tidy up at the end, packing up what was left and giving away anything we couldn’t sell; saying farewell to managers and shop staff who never dreamed of working for Buddhists but came to love Windhorse and Evolution so much so that tears were often shed at the end.
Then we began to go our separate ways. People left and did not come back. The desks were emptied and then the desks were sold off, or given away, or thrown out.
I’ve got some plans now and others have begun to find jobs in all sorts of different places. Bear us in mind over the next few months, as we do what we can to leave as little mess behind and as much perfume as we can spread out into the world. With love to my teacher. May I find new ways to serve you.”