Is Giving Receiving?

A dear friend of mine asked how I felt about being gifted with reduced goods. To date, I’ve received a birthday hamper with yellow sticker goodies, food reduced at the end of its shelf life. I regularly receive fruit and veg from my work bestie’s allotment. Another work friend brought me in a bag of teas that she’d found on the street. My mum has also given me sealed tins of food she’s found discarded. Friends routinely hit me up when they are clearing out their cupboards. A running friend gifts me with food samples she often picks up at races. To me relationship goals are a bouquet of cut price flowers. And for Christmas, the aforementioned friend, gifted me with yellow sticker raw bites and heart shaped cookie cutters from her kitchen.

The short answer is that I love receiving all these items. It means that I’ve been thought of, held in mind, I perceive it as an expression of care. It encourages me to become more creative with food, recipes; I can’t tell you how many ways I’ve made pumpkin! It means that others are thinking about food waste in their own time. That food is not just discarded but shared. If I receive foods that I can’t use then I have to think about what else to do with them; share with family, friends, food banks, the street homeless, distribute on food sharing apps and so the chain continues. It means that we all become a little more thoughtful of one another even when we don’t know each other. Isn’t this what it means to belong to a community?

Don’t get me wrong this has not always been my outlook. I was spoilt as a child, frivolous as a young adult. There have been times throughout my life when food has meant control, punishment. Money, gifts have been used to gain compliance, manipulate, satisfy the givers’ needs over the receiver.

Food, money, are symbolic and carry meaning. Is it any wonder that divorces with few shared assets can be settled with a little less acrimony, that the reading of a will can cause such strains within families. We rush to put the kettle on when we need to offer comfort. Ice cream has become synonymous with being dumped. How I’ve heard people refuse to give the homeless money in case they do not spend it on food. How morally damning we can be of those far less fortunate than ourselves. We use food to align ourselves with political and ethical ideologies, religious beliefs.

We need food, money, to survive. We need each other, we are relational beings. Every transaction, exchange that we have with one another carries meaning. We communicate when we give and receive. Be it good or bad let us not lose sight of that as we need to be mindful of the message we want to give one another and to the world we live in.

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