Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gift debt

Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves.
Jane Austen

Again, a weird synchronicity between what the subject of my post today, and the auto-cue Jane Austen quote. Although, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure that Jane is on the money here; sometimes there seems to be a bit too much Victorian meanness, or soured sentiment in her holier than though messages from England long gone. But still, a resonance non-less-less with the idea of giving and receiving.

I have a new friend here in Tassie who has 3 boys kids under 4, and her life is full with the incredible task of juggling their needs. She is lovely, I mean really lovely, and keeps on giving me stuff. Shoes for my daughter that she has outgrown, vegetables from her garden, wool from her alpacas, and now her husband has offered to help us by trimming down some bar stools with his circular saw... Lots of stuff... Nice neighbourly stuff.

Ive been struggling with the idea of being given things,and not feeling like I have to 'match the gift'. Or conversely, the idea that you should give, and then 'you shall receive'. Either way their is an expectation that a favour must necessarily be returned. Why is it so hard to accept that a gift is in fact just that. A gift freely given, and needs not a gift in return? Is it the capitalist sentiment that expects a settlement of a kind of gift-debt?

I would like to just be able to accept a gift, without a feeling of obligation (and I'm sure that its just me feeling the sense of obligation in the case of my generous new friend). So how do we begin to retrain ourselves in the art of receiving? Does this strike a cord with you? Any ideas?


  1. here's a thought. the gift does not need to be returned to the giver of the original gift, just the 'lesson' of the gift is learnt and passed on to others; one become more generous in turn.

    Thats my zen thought for the day.

  2. Such a nice post Jen. I give easily without expecting back, but also sometimes feel a bit uneasy with being given. If the gift is well intentioned and truly a gift, I believe there is a balance in nature that will even things out. One way or another. One just needs to be there and recognise when someone else needs the gift! I am often told not to give too much as there are so many 'abusers' around but it is my choice to ignore such comments and be happy giving. Mmmh I think this has departed from the original thinking of the post...

  3. Thanks Kel: thats a fine idea...just contibute good will to the communal pot. I like it!

    Ana: I know you do! And i reckon we may have discussed this one before. I also wish to cultivate that lightness of being happy giving, and expecting nothing in return. You do that so well, my friend! Im still working on that :)