I’ve never been able to understand the mayhem associated with the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, particularly since that day sort of marks the beginning of Christmas shopping, a holiday ostensibly about peace, joy and love.

Not so for a 15 year-old girl from Muskegon, MI, who was trampled (fortunately not to death) by rabid shoppers in a frenzy to lay hands on a copy of the Dance Central 2 video game. Or the “ladies” shrieking and tugging over merchandise that might be clothing. Or the “gentlemen” tussling over a DVD player. Or the melee that occurred around a stack of $2 waffle irons, including a less than delightful view of the bare derriere of a hefty shopper who hadn’t noticed her pants were falling down.

Black Friday crowd. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From what I’ve seen on Youtube, there’s not a speck of peace or love or joy to be found anywhere in the land of Big Box Gimme-That. It’s a study in the breakdown of civilization, humans yelling, clawing, pushing, grabbing to get their hands on a bargain, with absolutely no sense of oneness with anyone else. You’ve got to wonder if that crowd isn’t missing something.

Alayna and I did discover a group on Black Friday that isn’t about to lose its pants over a waffle iron.

At Bucketworks on Milwaukee’s Near South Side, we found a group of gentle, friendly adults and kids calmly painting gourds and wooden Christmas tree ornaments. Others were soldering up LED pins to take home. A few folks were learning about knitting and purling. There was a demonstration of 3-D printing done with a computer and table top machine that converted computer files into a cookie cutter, a whistle, a plastic octopus, and a gear. And it was all free, including refreshments.

You’d have to see all of Bucketworks to appreciate it. 27,000 square feet on two floors of an old factory. The founder, James Carlson, gave us a tour. There are all kinds of spaces at Bucketworks, for meetings, for art, for music, for presentations, for lounging, for making stuff, desk spaces for professionals to anchor a business, and a rooftop patio.

We saw a revolutionary design for beehives, a corner chock full of interesting puppets, a hoard of costumes for theatrical performances, an art gallery with work by folks who have discovered the joy of self-expression.

While Alayna soldered up an LED pin I spoke with Dan, who just happens to be on the board of the School Factory, a 501(c)3, the parent organization of Bucketworks. Besides explaining the 3-D printer to me, he spoke of plans for making a garden on the roof.

James Carlson believes that people will learn if they are given access to a suitable place and interactions with others who have something to share. Simple, smart, workable.

The difference between the folks at Bucketworks and the Black Friday mob can be explained in one word: community. The former has it, the latter doesn’t, at least not when they’re willing to trample a teenage girl to get their hands on a video game.