I had a volunteer helper, Fing from Taiwan, living at my house in Melbourne. One day he gave another housemate a haircut. A gift. Fing was Taiwanese, smart and cute, with a Master's degree in economics. He explained 'I learned hair cutting to prepare for my Working Holiday travel. I give haircuts to whoever wants one. At at the Youth Hostel, it was like a party. I made eveybody happy, and it was so easy'.
Fing invests in relationships, and then stands back and sees what happens next.
When I moved in to my Annandale share house, I made personalised egg presents for neighbours. I passed them a box whenever I went to ask for a favour, or just say 'hello'.
I drew pictures onto recycled egg cartons, with names of the chooks who laid them. Eggs were placed on a bed of straw, strewn with flowers. Opening each box was like opening a door to another world. My neighbours were of all sorts, and many ended up saving me, time after time with the hard things I'd attempt to do. The eggs, I'm sure, helped.
"Spend a month Learning something people actually need. Then spend the rest of your life doing it." - Bill Mollison, Permaculture founder.
Learn how to do repairs, and keep a needle and thread in your handbag. Learn how to sharpen kitchen knives, and keep whetstone in your car, for when you visit. Get good at taking out splinters, get good at catching and releasing spiders outside. Learn calligraphy and keep stickers in your handbag, to help people navigate their stuff better with on-the-spot labels. Make a list of 100 useful things you could get good at.
I don't know how many wonderful bosses want Fing for his Economics degree. But a whole lot of people want him for his wonderful character.
The gift economy is where the love and the fun are.
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