Gift Economy

Eggs from the girls of the Hotel Daire
Eggs from the girls of the Hotel Daire

Our beloved and spoiled chickens lay the most beautiful eggs. Each time we travel to appointments with doctors and healers we try to bring them a dozen eggs. It is an effort to bring the transactions with my doctors closer to the gift economy- mutual benefit is the goal.  I hope also that for my Portland doctors, a gift of eggs will help them connect with me as a human being, rather than just a case file.  It helps me as well, to be able to give something meaningful in return for all that they have given to me.

One version of the thank you prints I made
One version of the prints I made for thank you cards

Over these last several months the gift economy has touched our lives in many ways, the beautiful meals, and the contributions to our medical fund are two big ones.  Many people who cooked for us told us how happy they were to have some way to “Do Something” and that it really was a gift to them. It certainly contributed greatly to our health, happiness and general wellbeing to be fed so generously.

The donations to our medical fund have helped me to see those practitioners who are not covered by our insurance.  I have come to think of it as our community insurance.  I know that my side effects during chemo were minimized, and my recovery from surgery was boosted as a result of those complementary treatments.  Each time I write a check out it is a reminder that I belong not just to myself, not just to my family but in a way to my community at large.  We all belong to each other.  One of my neighbors said I can pay him back best by getting better.

Phase two of thank you cards completed- Martin is adding his hand carved oak leaf stamp to each envelope.
Phase two of thank you cards completed- Martin is adding his hand carved oak leaf stamp to each envelope.

We have benefited from so many favors large and small along this journey, prayers and well wishes, thoughtfully written letters, good books to read.  I can never doubt again that I am loved in this life. It feels crazy good to have the stack of envelopes I addressed way back in early March finally stamped and put in the mailbox.  The cards are a small means of acknowledging the bonds that connect us all.  I know that I have probably lost track of a few people who have gone out of their way to be kind and generous in someway, not to mention of course the several anonymous envelopes dropped off with no way to track them.  So even though we finally finished writing our gratitudes to the people on the long list we did keep track of today, I am fearful we missed someone. (Chemo really does mess with your memory.)

The social capitol that Joe and I have accrued in the last 18 years we have lived in Astoria seems much greater than I realized- as evident in the love that has surrounded us during this cancer-ing trip. Love being the currency of the gift economy. I feel a good kind of obligation now. It is one strong reason to get better, so I can find new ways to contribute to the gift economy of my community.  The beautiful thing about the gift economy is, it works to pay your debts forward. I know that those who have helped us out don’t have a little black book listing the favor. Any more then Joe and I were keeping track whenever we did some small thing that contributed to the common good over the years.  The amazing thing about the gift economy is that because it is powered by love, and because it so often operates with mutual benefit at the heart, it grows exponentially.

There is no way to pay back what you are given, neither with childrearing or teachers or the kindness of strangers.  You can only do what you can to keep it all flowing- adding to the joy and comfort and hope as you are able.  I think it may be what is keeping the world together in these crazy times.  Actually I think it is probably the only thing that has ever been keeping the world spinning around.

I wish I could make a pie big enough to give everyone a big juicy piece.
I wish I could make a pie big enough to give everyone a big juicy piece.

So, though it is not enough, Thank You to everyone who has been looking after us so well. I will do my best to make good on your investment.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. claire mcintyre says:

    Iris, I so hope you can continue to put your smart beautiful needed writing thoughts out into our community. You are such a GIFTED writer.

  2. Emily Lennon says:

    Beautifully written!

  3. Sharyn says:

    Every post I say to myself ” this is so inspiring or funny or informational or creative…I am printing all pages and putting them in a book so I can touch the pages and linger…” I have such appreciation for texture and the feel of paper or documents. I attribute that to my time with you making paper and books.
    Today we got our card. When I read this blog, I so hoped we would be a recipient of the precious print. I loved every part of it, the envelope, the postage stamp, Martin’s stamp, the print and of course the message to us. Thanks again and again for your sweet gifts.

  4. Anne B. says:

    I don’t have your email or I would have forwarded an email to you from Harmony Hill Retreat Center. They offer free retreats for cancer-ing folks. I learned about it when I had friends working there. It’s an amazing place on Hood Canal in WA. They’re offering a family retreat August 6-8: “Family Cancer Retreat (for families affected by a parental cancer diagnosis and their children ages 6-18) Spaces available!” As a gift to you, I’m referring you to this incredible resource. Send me your email and I’ll forward their whole newsletter. Lots of love, Anne

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.