Happy spring to you! The flowers have been busting out of the ground, and it’s impossible not to catch that energy from them. I love it.
So, I realized that I’ve been writing these posts, and have never actually explained my obsession with the gift economy. For the most part, folks have not tried to convince me that it’s too crazy, but I wonder if that’s because they are politely ignoring it, the way one might ignore a bit of spinach stuck in an acquaintance’s teeth. “Eventually they’re bound to look in the mirror and take care of it themselves, no need to make a scene about it just now,” you might think to yourself. But the thing is, I don’t have a little bit of lunch stuck in my teeth, I have a vision, albeit a slightly unconventional one. And I want to tell you about it, because I want your help in making it work.
Here’s what happened: it was the summer of 2010, and I was preparing to begin my studies in Chinese medicine. I was in a car full of friends on our way back to Portland from Eugene. My friend, Mark, now a naturopath, had just met Dr. Aumatma Shah at a Patch Adams conference, and had learned about her gift economy practice. He was all lit up with it, and explained the concept to me. Instead of receiving a bill at the end of a treatment, he said, patients are given a “receipt” notice, explaining that their treatment was paid for by the people who came before them. If the patient is inspired and able to support the clinic in serving future patients, they are invited to do so.
Something about this concept felt profoundly right. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In fact, I woke up the next morning, and for about the next sixty mornings, thinking about the gift economy. At that same time, I had a few experiences that helped me along.
The first was when I turned down a soul-squelching data entry job and decided to split the summer months between a Vipassana retreat, camping, and gardening. I was concerned about money, but knew I had some growing to do and that it wasn’t going to happen in a cinder block office. Just after turning down the job, I was given three huge gifts, in rapid succession: 1) plane tickets that allowed me to be in my best friend’s wedding, 2) a computer, and 3) soaker hoses for the garden–which virtually materialized the minute my sister and I decided to keep an eye out for them. So, yeah, soaker hoses were my burning bush…maybe not as visually striking, but they spoke to me none the less. It seemed clear that the universe was doing its best to send me down this path.
Now, here’s where you come in. I need to know how you think this can work for people. Can you imagine yourself as the patient of a gift-economy practitioner? Why or why not? Are there any feelings, questions, or concerns that arise, specifically around the topic of payment? If it sounds difficult, awkward, or otherwise challenging to you, can you imagine what might be done to make it feel more comfortable?
If you have been the patient of a gift-economy practitioner, I’d love to hear about your experience. What was it like for you? What feelings do you associate with that experience?
I’m all ears, friends, and looking forward to hearing from you. Please send me your thoughts. Even just a few quick words would be so helpful. You can send them to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them as comments on the blog.
Many thanks to you, for your continued support.