I am fond of the idea of the gift economy. Not the BUYGIFTS! economy, but the give-gifts economy. It’s the offering of a thing or a service with no expectation. There’s no real record-keeping and sometimes its hard to tell who is on what side of the transaction.
When I went down to the Farm yesterday to work on shifting stuff around in the Barn in anticipation of our move-in, my friend/new landlord saw that as me helping her. I saw it as her helping me. I brought some food I’d made and we snacked together. She made tea for us and got lunch. I gave her a frozen chicken from our last harvest. Together we moved some really really heavy tools and talked about free furniture, curtains and rugs from Craigslist and Freecycle.
My friend was being a very gracious host. Offering food and drink is a cool way to let someone know they are welcome in your home. But creating opportunities for your guests to be part of what’s happening can be even more fun. On the Beachy side of our family, guests that will be around for more than a few hours might be given a List which consists of a mess of chores that can be done. Doing dishes or shoveling snow (or moving furniture!) together creates stronger ties than sitting in the parlor and being served.I was doing my best to be a gracious guest. Saying “yes” when asked if you’d like a little something isn’t always easy. We want to show that we are independent souls and that we can provide for ourselves! But knowing how to accept kindness is important. Feel what it feels like in your body when you say, “no, thanks”. Now try saying “yes, thanks!” You can feel the opening that happens, the moment of vulnerability. Tendrils awaken between you and your host.
As we head into the dark and cold time, our desire for human connection can be strong. There are a lot of opportunities to be a guest or a host, to give or take. As a guest, what if you always showed up at the door with something in your hands? A bottle, a candle, a pie are all consumables that won’t lay a burden on the receiver, like many ‘gifts’ do. As a host, how would it be if you let folks help you in the kitchen? The small conversations that happen while cutting vegetables can be surprisingly potent.
Giving and receiving gifts, giving and receiving thanks, are ways that we fully engage with Life. Like water seeking its own level, we expand and contract through our connections until we find balance. The inhale and exhale, rise and fall, offer and acceptance move us in a dance as old as time and we are blessed!