Healing Scarcity Through A Gift Economy


Gratitude creates a sense of abundance, the knowing that you have what you need. In that climate of sufficiency, our hunger for more abates and we take only what we need, in respect for the generosity of the giver.

If our first response is gratitude, then our second is reciprocity: to give a gift in return. What could I give these plants in return for their generosity? It could be a direct response, like weeding or water or a song of thanks that sends appreciation out on the wind. Or indirect, like donating to my local land trust so that more habitat for the gift givers will be saved, or making art that invites others into the web of reciprocity.

Gratitude and reciprocity are the currency of a gift economy, and they have the remarkable property of multiplying with every exchange, their energy concentrating as they pass from hand to hand, a truly renewable resource.” From “The Serviceberry” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

At times in life we find ourselves purging possessions that we no longer need or even use very often. Starting a train of thought about why we hang on to things, and what meaning and impact they have in our lives and by default to others around us. Is it based in scarcity and survival?

Western economics is based on the assumption of scarcity as the main principle. Anything and everything in a market is implicitly defined as scarce and how people use resources and respond to incentives.

Ecological economics is a growing economic theory that expands the conventional definition by working to integrate Earth’s natural systems and human values, where human and non-human life can flourish.

In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein reflects on the economy of ecosystems: “In nature, headlong growth and all-out competition are features of immature ecosystems, followed by complex interdependency, symbiosis, cooperation, and the cycling of resources. The next stage of human economy will parallel what we are beginning to understand about nature. It will call forth the gifts of each of us; it will emphasize cooperation over competition; it will encourage circulation over hoarding; and it will be cyclical, not linear. Money may not disappear anytime soon, but it will serve a diminished role even as it takes on more of the properties of the gift. The economy will shrink, and our lives will grow.

A gift economy is a system based on the currency of relationships expressed in gratitude, as interdependence and the ongoing cycles of reciprocity. This nurtures community bonds which enhance mutual well being. The economic unit is “we” rather than “I” based in diversity, community support and collaboration.

Recently, as I have been clearing away possessions and past identities of endeavors in preparation for a relocation out of my native state of California, I have found the pure joy and freedom held within the “we” of a gift economy even when selling something no longer needed. In exploring this territory over the last year I recognized that most of my life was spent struggling with the assumption of scarcity and living it as a fact of life.

This past month I have experienced a continuous expansion and freedom as I sold, donated, gave away and recycled. it started with a portable massage table that was sold to a local acupuncturist who would continue healing work on its surface; a Buddha statue that went to a man who was giving it as a Valentines Day gift to place out in the garden of someone he loved; a laser printer given away to a Special Ed teacher at the local high school; an antique kimono I had been carrying around forever that needed repair to one sleeve; and many items to the local Hospice for their thrift stores to support the important work they do.

Whether selling items, donating, recycling or giving away the actions were based in gratitude, reciprocity and a circular flow of abundance and interconnection to people I had not come in contact with before. Never in scarcity. Always in the knowing of “enough” to be shared and passed on.

The Special Ed teacher thanked me for my generosity and said that her students would benefit greatly from a printer easy to use for their projects. And I smiled this morning as I received a text from the woman who took the kimono. She had repaired it and was joyfully wearing this beautiful art. A picture of a local river here in N. California that I had donated $60 for at a silent auction for Hospice a couple of years ago, went right back to them to sell at their thrift store thus gaining additional monetary support for their contribution to the community.

As I ready myself for a cross country drive to my new home of Asheville, N. Carolina I feel only gratitude and a freedom born of knowing that the reciprocity and regeneration will continue to flow.

Cooperation, circulation, cyclical…renewable.

Stay tuned for the unfolding adventure….

RESOURCE: https://gratefulness.org/resource/the-serviceberry/ , By Robin Wall Kimmerer, Plant Ecologist, mother, scientist, professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.


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