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Over the past number of months, I have participated
with small groups of acquaintances in a virtual format
for a gifting circle. In some respects, it could be likened
to a form of giveaway. The exchange of goods and
services, from simple to elaborate, touches me deeply.
Each time I am in such a group, I am overwhelmed
with the generosity of others and the thought each
person has given to their
requests and their offerings.
Many of these acquaintances are now friends, extending the circle of connection and helping to alleviate the isolation. Obviously, everyone takes all necessary precautions regarding gifts that are
physically sent to another. Time has been a favorite by many; time offered to another to simply listen, to share joy and sorrow, stories, recipes, or ideas. The concept is limitless.
Many of us are isolated from family and friends, either by miles or necessity of health, work or other
circumstances. Yet, individuals in these circles have gifted others with prepaid cards for phone use, or
groceries; another relayed connections to a mechanic who repaired a car as a gift, and so much more. The majority of the gifts are handmade or comprised of natural items like herbs or stones. The emphasis is placed on the spirit of gifting, instead of the monetary equivalence.
I see resilience here, resilience in spirit, in honoring our traditions, even within a new virtual format. In
the days to come, we need to draw upon this resilience and the willingness to help others. As I write this, the November winds carried in two significant days. One honoring the birth of my Papaw, one hundred and twenty-two years ago, the other, the day my Dad walked to the Spirit World fourteen years ago.
The relationship between my Dad and my Papaw was complicated, as it was with my Dad and me.
Nonetheless, they both shared this inherent resilience and generosity. I lost count long ago how many
times I saw a receipt stamped Paid in Full for mechanic work completed for Elders. Elders unable to pay for automotive repair or parts were not turned away. In return, many returned later with bounty from their garden to share, or homemade sweets or breads. Late afternoons and weekends, I would be with my Dad or Papaw at our little farm to feed the cows and sometimes throw a line in the tank and fish. Squirrels were plentiful, as were the doves in season and often we made stops on the way home,
gifting cleaned fish, birds, or squirrels to different families in need.
They taught by example, never wasting equipment or resources, often trading or giving hard to locate
items to whoever needed them. We ate simply, utilizing the game we brought to the table, as well as
fruits and vegetables we harvested. Unexpected guests would have a place at the table and often left with food to take home. Although my Papaw was more proficient with expressing emotions, both
shined when it came to sharing with others.
They were ‘savers’, bordering on the edges of hoarding when it came to automotive parts and metal. It
created an interesting contrast to the natural things they each collected, from stones to shed horns,
uninhabited birds’ nests, jars of dirt and sand in a wide array of colors; among other things. Suffice it to
say, many of these possessions were often transformed into treasured gifts.
Talented and creative, they each redefined gifting, with the intention of the gift as well as the
presentation. One year I received a toy metal car, reminiscent of a Model A Ford. Around twelve inches
long, with metal wheels, it provided a lot of play time for my Dad as a child. When he gifted it to me,
taped to the underside was the key to my first car, an older faded blue Chevy Impala. The Impala is long gone, but the toy car has a special place in my studio. A childhood treasure made more significant by the willingness to share.
In this time of uncertainty, when we are often far from friends and family, it becomes even more
important to rely on our resilience and live with generosity. Gifting and sharing are vital now for our
emotional and spiritual health, it can be a lifeline to others in need and a deep tie to the traditional ways of our Ancestors.