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.
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.
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.
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.