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365 Days of Giving

By Liesl Clark

I started giving at an early age when signs of hoarding and entitlement amongst my siblings and me made my stomach hurt. I was the youngest in a 4-sibling family, and everything that was mine had previously been theirs. I rarely had a thing of my own that hadn’t already been played with or worn. For me, the sense of ownership of things was lost, a foreign concept even. What was mine was really theirs by default and the things that were theirs I was often forbidden to touch.

Sharing your things at an early age can have an impact on how others feel about themselves and their own stuff. © Liesl Clark

Sharing your things at an early age can have an impact on how others feel about themselves and their own stuff. © Liesl Clark

You might say I now have a thing about stuff. Stuff and me we aren’t, well, friends, as I’ve come to recognize the power stuff can have over people.

One of the biggest things I ever wanted when I was a teenager was a chance to wear a dress my sister had. I LOVED that dress. It was made for my body type, not hers, and she never, if ever, wore it. But it sat in her closet because it was hers. I couldn’t so much as look at it, or go near her closet. One summer day, when she was out of town for a month, I just plain wore it and loved every bit about being in the forbidden dress that would never fit my big sister. I wasn’t reveling in the naughtiness of my act. In fact, I was terrified. But that dress, in my estimation, needed to be worn and I was the right person to wear it. In so doing, as all bold deeds might prove, I got a miniscule stain on the dress that I never thought could be detected.

A month later, just after she returned, I heard the screams from her room and knew immediately what she had discovered. If a sky could fall, this was the day it hit the floor with a thud, cratering around her closet because of the rotten thing I had done. I don’t think I had ever done anything so rotten to her, other than existing. And this was, at the time of course, the last straw.

To heal my own wounds from the dress incident, and explore my feelings about it, my behavior about stuff radically changed: I took a 180-degree opposite course without understanding why, but it felt freeing. I gave and loaned things to others wholeheartedly, to the horror of my sister, and established strong bonds with friends who liked to trade and share what we had. I went so far as to loan out my most precious things, too, and understood implicitly that they might never come back. My sister was shocked by my giving nature, calling it “irresponsible”, accusing me of not taking care of my things.

Were they “my” things or things to communally enjoy, even if we might lose them in the end? As the youngest sibling, all my things felt communally consumed and I was okay with it. A set of precious earrings I had purchased during a summer on Corsica ended up permanently in the jewelry box of a friend. It felt wrong at first, until I let go of the thing itself and appreciated how happy my friend felt wearing them. That ache in my stomach disappeared altogether and my giving went on.

I learned that the more I gave away, the more I wanted to give away, just to see how far I could go with the feelings of discomfort, redefining giving as an act of free will with no attachments. I wanted to take all the power out of owning and coveting things. Coveting and hoarding made my stomach hurt and made me give all the more. Sure, I felt pangs of sickness when I gave away dresses I designed for my own body with fabrics I worked hard to earn enough money to buy. But if a friend asked for it, I’d give it freely, having seen the ugliness that comes with ownership of things. I could always make another dress. Or, as I soon learned, a friend would offer a new dress or shoes to me for no reason but love and kindness.

This week I started a project I’m calling “365 Days of Giving.” I want to relive those days of giving freely and removing the strings I have attached to the things in my life.  I also want to explore the relationships I’ll redefine and uncover in the process. Some of the giving won’t be of stuff. It might be an answer to a neighbor’s need for a ride, or lending out an item we use daily to someone who could use it. I want to push the boundaries of giving, to the point where my family and I might go without to help another person, giving to connect with the people around us, not through our stuff but through kindness, sharing, and caring. This, in my mind, is true giving, giving until that hurt in your stomach goes away.

Too  much stuff? Start giving. © Liesl Clark

Too much stuff? Start giving. © Liesl Clark

How Does 365 Days of Giving Work?

This is both an experiment and a challenge inviting others to join in the giving: Try, in your own ways, to give freely of your stuff or yourself, pushing the boundaries of ownership and giving collaborative consumption, sharing, and the gift economy a try. At times the balance may feel out of your favor, are you giving too much? I believe that when you work to create a balance in the common good, helping others, then you reach your own sense of peace and well-being. If resources are scarce for you, give of yourself in other ways: Offer a hand to a friend or help a stranger with a difficult task they can’t do on their own.

This project is made easy for me through our local Buy Nothing group. I post items I want to give, and people respond immediately. When someone posts something they want, I can see if I have it and then give easily. It’s our own local gift economy experiment, and I believe it can work beautifully, if everyone gets into the spirit of giving. So far, in just 3 weeks we’re approaching 1000 members and the giving is infectious!

If you want to try this experiment for a day, a month, or a year. Join me here and post your own stories of giving freely.

My format, for now, is to list what I’m giving each day and what I’ve received. Two simple categories, with an occasional blog post to deconstruct the lessons learned.

———-

Date: July 23, 2013

Given:

2 Sets of Driftwood blocks for kids to play with.

Received:

Frozen bananas

2 bags full of health food including:

Stevia

Almond flour

Shredded coconut

A loaf of bread

Yogurt

Cider Spices

———-

Date: July 24, 2013

Given:

Set of nesting omelet dishes

Pretty piggy bank

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

Received:

Paint thinner.

Hamster cage for my daughter’s birthday

Several toys for my children including a pretty piggy bank.

———-

Date: July 25

Given:

1 Dozen fresh organic (soy free) eggs

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

12 Whittled marshmallow roasting sticks

———-

Date: July 26:

Given:

Trail-a-Bike

Mint Plants

A dozen eggs

Received:

Large T-bones for our dog

Pint of raspberries

A thank you note of appreciation

A cake from a friend.

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

———-

Date: July 27

Given:

Rhubarb

Helped a stranger by driving her massage equipment back to her home from a music festival.

Customized upcycled chicken feeders to be used to collect food waste at the music festival.

Giant Rhubarb © Liesl Clark

Giant Rhubarb © Liesl Clark

Received:

Because we went to the festival (and we brought bikes) my daughter took her first ride on a bicycle without training wheels. A priceless gift.

 Leftover food from the festival for my chickens.

More paint thinner and windshield fluid for my car.

Little Pet shop toys for my daughter’s upcoming birthday.

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

———-

Date: July 28

Given:

Collard Greens

Basket of stuffed animals

Yogurt starter

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

Received:

Lily of the Valley Plants

Shelves for daughter’s room

Boston Baked Bean candies for my kids

More Little Pet Shop toys for my daughter’s upcoming birthday.

Bag of bread for our chickens

———-

Date: July 29

Given:

Chopsticks

Toothbrush Holder

Arugula

Collards, Arugula, Oregano

Jar of honey from our bees

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

Received:

Little Pet Shop Toys

Boston Baked Beans

Shelves

Onions

Legos

Wine

Shoes for us to give to Nepali Villagers

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

———-

Date: July 30

Given:

Bag of small toys

Kale

Iphone charger

Received:

Coleus Plant with a thank you note. 

———-

Date: July 31

Given:

1 Dozen eggs

Collards

Received:

Crab pot  (Future loan)

Revolution Flea Stuff for cat

Stuffed Bears for daughter

Cookies

Glasses Case for us to give to Nepali Villagers

Mexican Wedding Cookies © Liesl Clark

Mexican Wedding Cookies © Liesl Clark

———-

Are you interested in joining me in this giving project? Let me know below or provide your own advice on ways we can give more freely to add more good will to the communal karma.

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About pioneeringthesimplelife

Filmmaker, Mother, Educator, Dreamer

15 comments on “365 Days of Giving

  1. Yes! I am ready to take on a year of giving. So happy to be a part of it.

  2. Yes, Liesl, I will be happy to be a part of this experiment – I can’t wait to see what is in store for this group in the coming months.

  3. I’d love to participate. I already do this somewhat, not everyday though. Come September, I will be able to focus on keeping a tab on the daily giving. what a great idea!

    • Hi Kolika. Thanks so much for joining in on the giving project. When you have a chance to write down your daily giving and receiving and some thoughts about it, do share it with us here in the form of a post. We’d love to read it!

  4. What a wonderful idea, especially for our hearts & souls, & as an example to our children & grandchildren! Liesl, you have so eloquently described how & why you have started this experiment. Believing that everything we own, owns us, & that I will have more time, energy & creativity when I value being & giving, more than having, I want to join you & this community

  5. Hi..I have an interesting idea…I love to “give” but I’m limited in the amount of stuff I can give.How about a trade of servise to help?…this is a nice an comforting idea you islanders have ! :)

    • Hi Duane. Thanks so much for your idea. Yes! We have people offering their services in our Buy Nothing group on our island. I, too, often don’t have a “thing” to give, but I offer up my help/services when I can. Today, my husband and I helped a stranger who needed a mattress taken out of her home and to the dump. She didn’t have a truck to do it and had the courage to ask, and so I responded and helped her. It was fun and I think it made a difference for her. Other people have offered wonderful services in our group: Our local librarian is offering up a suggested book of the week to read, a local chef is teaching cooking classes for free, a local designer has even designed our Buy Nothing logo for free! How’s that for a fully functioning gift economy?

  6. Hi Liesl,
    I joined the Edmonds group through my personal FB account, then found your post here on WordPress today. This is a fantastic idea and I will be looking through my closets for items to post that are ready for new homes. Keep up the good work!
    Lisa

    • Thanks, Lisa! Your help by gifting in the Edmonds group will go a long way! I think people need to see how it works and that gifting is what feeds the communal pot of good will that keeps coming around. Thanks for anything you can do!

  7. I feel as if I am already a part of this. I grew up with a grandfather who didn’t want for anything, his needs were slight, and female family members who hoarded and had to have name brand everything. I was then influenced by the traditional Native American way of life. Where what you have you share and don’t get caught up in owning things (or pets for that matter). it crystallized how I felt but couldn’t find the words. I began to share what I had. I will take just about anything and find it a new home, I leave my outdoor chairs, tools etc outside for others to use, I would rather give away than take compensation for it. I have purchased used fabric and made cloth napkins for others, I share my dishes during the holidays with family so they don’t feel the need to buy more than they need the rest of the year. I frequently offer do help others, a neighbor needed to send pictures of a part to a company to help him finish building an electric bike, I knew I could, so I photographed and emailed the company for him. Another neighbor have very little time left to live,but she loves a homegrown tomato, I take her one every few days to brighten her day.

    The thing is the more you give the more you get back, as you know.

  8. […] else does (often a charity that is looking for something very specific). Liesl Clark’s post 365 Days of Giving is a lovely post that looks at giving from a new […]

  9. Reblogged this on Free UniversE-ity and commented:
    Thanks, buynothingproject.org !

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