How can we give things when we don’t want to spend money? Or rather, when we have very little money to spend on other people?
Giving is human nature. The verb “offer” is one of my favorites.
Giving is also power-play. My first course in college, Cultural Anthropology, demanded us to explore the act of gift-giving among our own and other cultures. Holy shit! We -people of the world- give for a lot of reasons. But there’s always strings attached.
I’ve been the recipient of some pretty memorable tangible gifts. I like to give tangible gifts, too. Giving is a way of sharing power. Sharing possession. It’s not bad. It just is. Lately, though, it’s been difficult for me to give tangible gifts. When traveling with dear Leeann, we made a list of giveable things. It’s pretty delightful to see the themes of time, respect, attention, and connection emerge:
Things I can give for almost free:
-My undivided attention
-A smile and/or awkward body language to strangers
-Reminders to friends that I think of them
-Comments of encouragement/appreciation on social media, or in email, or other virtual & visual mediums
-THANK YOU LETTERS
-Uniquely-written life updates
-My true impression of the people I meet, to their face
-An attempt to communicate in someone’s native language
-Bites of my food
-Sips of my drinks
-RESPECT… patience, quietness
-Inquisition when I have a sense something hasn’t quite surfaced in someone yet
-Things I already own
-A funny piece of knowledge, trivia, or a joke
-Dance moves (or, lack thereof)
-Stories from my day
-Stories from my life
-Stories I’ve heard and had noteworthy reactions to
-The benefit of the doubt
-Advice, and judgment-free spaces
-Demonstrations that I remembered something small about someone
-Enthusiasm and celebrations with people even if it’s a minor thing
-The comfy seat, the comfy side of the bed
-Hands in the kitchen
-Serving/pouring/plating/scooping/placing/bringing things (especially a glass of water) to someone without them asking
It’s retrospectively unsurprising that it took me until I had very little in my bank account to realize how important it is for me to be able to GIVE—and that I’d relied on consumerism to so conveniently show something as beautiful and sacred as respect.
Cheers to offering you this brief thinking list on giving! Happy Thursday.