I know “The Giving Keys” sound like an indie band from some hick town who cruise the streets in a bashed up old Buick but it’s actually the nicest notion that I’ve come across on the interwebnet for a long time.
Brainchild of Caitlin Crosby an American singer-songwriter and actress, The Giving Keys exists to help people in LA who are transitioning out of homelessness by employing them to engrave recycled keys which are then made in to bracelets, necklaces and pendants. The keys are engraved with single words like ‘BELIEVE’, ‘FEARLESS’, ‘GRATEFUL’, ‘HOPE’ and ‘LOVE’ and they’re beautiful in that quirky something slightly out of the ordinary, people will ask you where you got it from kind of way.
The Giving Keys was born when Caitlin started wearing an old New York hotel room key as a necklace which progressed to selling engraved key necklaces at the merch table at her gigs. The key necklaces became a massive hit and sold like hotcakes and became a real focus for Crosby alongside her music. However it wasn’t until she met Cera and Rob who were homeless on Hollywood Blvd and rocking a sign saying ‘UGLY, BROKE & HUNGRY’ that things clicked into place. They became the first employees, scouring the streets for old keys before meeting Caitlin on street corners to exchange keys for cash. With the help of The Giving Keys Cera and Rob moved into apartments of their own, Rob graduated from high school and headed off to college and Cera is training to be a nutritionist and both still work for TGK. From little acorns, there are now ten employees working for TGK and making the steps to transition out of homelessness.
So far so ‘something you could probably buy on ASOS’ right? That’s where the giving part comes into its own. The driving force behind the words on the keys is that when a key comes into your life, you keep hold of it until you cross paths with someone who you feel needs the message that the key bears. There are a collection of stories on the website of the people who have bought the keys, been given the keys and given away the keys, and some of them are so touching that I’m not ashamed to say I’ve cried at a few.
I just love the random act of kindness of it all. That you could be drawing your own inner strength from a key round your neck, but that in that one moment you feel compelled, inspired, driven, to give your key to someone who needs it more. It reminds me of being given a little round flat pebble of green glass that had been worn down by the tides to a smooth little nub. The person who gave it to me carried it in their pocket and whenever they were feeling worried or stressed they’d give the smoothness of the glass a rub to calm down and focus on something other than what was swirling round in their head. In their mind if the power of the tides hadn’t rubbed the glass to nothing then a bit of worry wasn’t going to kill them either. They came into my life at a time of great stress and it was fleeting but I still think of them and what they’ve given me (more than just a bit of old glass) every time I rub that little pebble.
The mysterious nature of it all means my imagination can also run wild about where the keys have come from, who they might have belonged to and what they might have unlocked. I just think it’s beautiful and once I’ve decided which word I feel I drawn to most, I’ll be placing an order.
- The Giving Keys are available from http://www.thegivingkeys.com/ and they ship internationally, with postage to the UK at approx $16. They are also sold in 200+ stores in the US, including Fred Segal and Kitson.