Years ago my business partner and I had a work engagement several hours away. As he picked me up in the freezing winter pre-dawn twilight, he handed me a hot café’ au lait and an almond croissant. When I rummaged in my purse to pay him back for the breakfast, he looked over with a smile and said, “Barbara, let’s not have that kind of relationship.”
I’ve used those words myself over the ensuing years when friends want to settle up with me. Sometimes I appreciate repayment – if the bill is high and/or the self-employment revenues low. Most often though, it seems silly to me to nickel-and-dime with people close to me.
It steals the joy of sharing. It presumes that we can use money to cancel our indebtedness to each other.
This week I’m borrowing my mother’s car while mine is getting repaired after running into a deer. I am her primary caregiver, so she is very often on the receiving end of my help. She told me yesterday how happy she is to help me out for a change.
The friend who helped me get home after the deer collision will be keeping my gardens watered and staying in my place while he looks for a new home.
My next-door neighbor lends me her lawn mower and I thank her for her generosity by pulling weeds in our adjoining front gardens.
When I make too much soup (which I invariably do….), I share a few portions with my upstairs neighbor. As the owner of the building, he takes joy in keeping it beautiful and functional for the two of us. We are both old school neighbors – the kind that enjoys helping out and making life better for the people near us.
And my little comfort choir – The Morning Star Singers – has been humming along on volunteer spirit for nine years now. None of us get paid for bringing song and compassionate presence to people in hospices and hospitals. The administrative details are handled by several kind souls and I volunteer my leadership time as well.
At the airport today, I will be looking for opportunities to be kind and friendly to the people I encounter at the TSA, in the shops, and on the plane. To be honest, I practice this kind of warmth not just for the benefit of others; I do it to keep myself from falling into crankiness and self-absorption.
These simple exchanges are symbolic for a deeper kind of sharing among us. They make manifest the invisible bonds that link us to each other. They keep us engaged in the great cycle of giving and receiving that is the basis of all life on this planet.
Consider the wise words of the great Sufi poet, Hafiz:
Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”