For the past year and a half I have had a somewhat nomadic life. The first 6 months were spent traveling the globe and then coming back to Australia I found myself home but still rootless as I didn’t have a job or a house to call my own. This has been both a liberating and challenging experience as I don’t deal well with uncertainty. What has humbled me and kept me going over many months of job hunting has been the amazing gifts I have received along the way. I have had homes opened to me in generous gifts of hospitality and others have supported me, encouraged me and believed in me when I was finding it hard to believe in myself. These gifts have shown me the security that comes from being apart of a community.
Community is a tricky notion, especially in our hyper-individualised society. So as much as I have appreciated all the help I have received, it has also been a difficult to be continually taking and feeling that I have nothing commensurate to offer in return. This sense of gratitude and obligation is rare in our society where we are used to paying for what we need. Money gives us the powerful but illusory feeling of being in control of our lives and independent of others. In this society to be in a state where you need to ask for and accept help is disempowering. To be at the receiving end of charity after all has the implication that you are incapable of taking care of yourself properly.
In many other societies, especially those without a institutionalised monetary system (rare today but no so much in pre-colonial times) sharing and gifting was the normal way of exchanging goods and services. Communities would share the child minding or come together to help build a house or to grow food. These days we pay people to do these things for us. When we commodify every aspect of our life it is harder to form the deeper relationships that are born of depending on and trusting another person. As a result true community is lost.
If we want to genuinely rebuild communities then we need to widen the networks of sharing and gifting. It is a way to regain the security that comes from knowing you are not in this alone. Its not an easy thing to do and there will be those that abuse the trust but approached in the right spirit the benefits far outweigh the costs. That is at least what I have found.