In a phone call yesterday, a friend shared some exciting news: he has decided to keep chickens.
His suggestion – since he knows of my excitement about the garden I am planting this year – was to suggest trading some of the eggs from his chickens for some of my tomatoes.
(I’m flattered by his confidence in my ability to actually keep a tomato plant alive long enough for it to produce a tomato!)
My response was: “This is country living at its best!”
As I give the matter more thought, though, I am forced to retract that statement.
This desire to trade isn’t a trait born or developed only by folks who inhabit rural areas. I’m convinced that it’s a trait that is born in each of us.
Don’t believe me? Sit down at lunch with some elementary-age students and watch the mealtime bartering.
Need more proof? Check out a flea market sometime.
Human beings seem to have an innate need to pass on the things they no longer want or need, or the things which they have in abundance.
The great number of flea markets, estate sales, food swaps, thrift stores and consignment shops around the country seem to indicate that, in addition to the need to pass on, we also have inherited a willingness to receive those items that have been offered.
I suspect this is our survival instinct showing itself. Somewhere deep inside us, our cells remember (even if our conscious minds do not) that we were made to live symbiotically.
In modern America (although, probably not limited to here), it seems that too often, symbiosis is disdained in favor of individualism, living simply and interdependently is dismissed in favor of hoarding and stockpiling, and talking heads seem to suggest that the attempt to live more cooperatively is somehow insidious, that it somehow undermines the “American spirit”.
But those attitudes cannot negate the fact that, whether we accept it or not, we live in a web of connectedness. Embracing that web leads to richer fuller lives for all of us, while attempting to disengage from the web diminishes our common life.
But it’s not easy. Living in such a way requires that we live honestly, offering up both our gifts and our needs to the larger community.
Sometimes, I’m not sure which is more difficult: claiming the knowledge of our own gifts so that we might offer them up without hesitation, or admitting to our need or weakness, so that others might have the opportunity to support and sustain us.
Either offering requires courage. And there are days that I just don’t have it.
But I think I can at least start with a tomato.