We still haven’t nailed how to solve this virus, but with zero new cases in the Australian Capital Territory for two weeks, we are cautiously back to socialising in small groups – and giving.
Friends and giving
I caught up with SEVEN friends this week, as in actually saw them, enjoyed a cuppa tea or meal together. And I also saw my inlaws and some friends I saw twice. It’s feeling almost normal, catching up and reconnecting with people, albeit with restrictions.
I’m noticing that some people are more lonely than they want to admit. For us, I’ve been in a loving environment surrounded by my husband and my two boys. We have daily 4pm reading hour chats with my Dad (aka Grandpa Roy), and I have several Zoom meetings during the week. I feel surrounded by love and abundance. I’m so grateful for this, not least because I know how hellish it can be to live in an environment that isn’t peaceful. Some days, I turn to my husband, Neil, and say “you know, it would have been WWIII by lunchtime yesterday.” And he’s like, “but why?” It’s hard to explain why, but if you’ve ever lived in an environment where you felt you were walking on eggshells you will understand. It just is.
I’ve been giving away moderately during lockdown, but only a few things through my Buy Nothing group that would help people during this time, mainly jigsaw puzzles, home schooling resources and sourdough starter. Now it’s time to really give away all the things I’ve had stored in my donation box (aka the Who Gives a Crap box). The interesting thing is the reluctance of good friends to receive things.
Giving and receiving is sometimes different in different cultures. I find that in my Aussie culture, people like to immediately ‘pay back’ a debt or cancel it out. If someone has you over for dinner, for instance, you never come empty-handed. You always bring a good bottle of wine over or a dessert so you are doing your part. You might also host them back soon after so that you can reciprocate.
When I lived in China and Taiwan, it was different. They have this concept called ‘guanxi’. It doesnt’ have a direct translation, but roughly it’s about linkages. It’s considered an honour to give someone something. It’s an honour, for instance, to pay the bill at a restaurant (really – people fight over who WANTS to pay). When you have a relationship – guanxi – with someone you never try to cancel it out to even up the score. You know that one day, when your friend needs you that you be there. It is an ongoing debt. Often you try to have more people guanxi-debted to you (in a good way). When you need to call on friends, you know you have a network.
Sometimes I think more like someone Chinese/Taiwanese than someone born in Australia. I was therefore surprised to have to have a giving discussion with my good friend, Trish and again with my new friend, Jen.
Regular blog readers will know that Trish (or Trishie as some people call her) is a special friend. I’d do anything for Trish. She knows that. And she regularly does amazing things for me. She even had the kids and I over on Christmas Day last year, which I really appreciated because Neil was away and I was missing him terribly. While I know I’m not blood related, I felt like family that day.
Trish was in the neighbourhood on Tuesday visiting her daughter (and her new grandson), so she decided to stop by for a cup of tea. Of course, I went through the ‘Who Gives a Crap Box’ and found several things suitable for her grandkids. “Oh but Serina, I can’t take these – I’ve got nothing to give you!” Why do you have to give something back when receiving? It makes no sense when I’m giving away anyway as I declutter. In the end, she did take things, albeit reluctantly. I managed to give her a 500-word jigsaw puzzle (with three pieces missing), a Gina Ford book with bedtime lullabies, a shape plaything (I’m sure there is a technical word), a pair of shoes my kids didn’t like, and a plastic microwave with plastic food.
The magic microwave – that was a funny story. Three years ago, my youngest desperately wanted a toy microwave for his fourth birthday. He’s seen a Youtube clip where someone did a ‘magic trick’ of making old toys turn new again in a microwave. So of course he wanted one, and he managed to convince Grandpa to take him to the Westfield mall and buy one for him.
The day before, my new (ish) podcasting and radio host friend Jen stopped by.
I recorded an amazing podcast with her a few months ago, and she is turning into an amazing friend and confidant. What with bushfires and pandemics, we’ve been *meaning* to sit down and actually chat, and to date it hasn’t happened. Yet.
On Monday she said “I’m coming around”. I hurriedly cleaned up a bit (nothing like a friend coming around for a home spring clean) and we sat down to a cup of tea and a chat. But before we got to that, she had a present for my boys: some Raiders shirts. Jen is a Raiders fan and (had the season continued) would have called the Raiders games on radio 2CC. My boys were sooooo happy to get these shirts.
And then she had more gifts: a copy of The Commonsense Cookery Book, and a beautiful opped dress that fit me perfectly! This was definitely a visit where I received more than I gave.
I managed to give her an audio CD of a series that her sons might like (mine are still too young). It was a gift from one of my fabulous neighbours, and I hopes it manages to keep giving. I also gave her a candle made by Bec Cuzzillo (who was also an earlier podcast guest). I LOVE her candles. Unfortunately, this one, JOY, doesn’t suit me. For some reason, I sneeze when it burns, which is a shame as it smells amazing and well, it’s about JOY. I was telling Jen how wonderful Bec’s candles were and then decided to give her a Goddess Laksmi one so that she can manifest more abundance in her life.
Again, surprisingly, I had that chat about “oh, I feel so bad taking things.” I’m surprised this comes up between friends. The honour is mine as a friend to give. It comes from the heart, I don’t expect reward, but as I’m finding, karma comes around. As I was typing this, my friend Trish sent me a lovely message about her own giving karma:
I have had a receiving weekend. A lady offered a doona cover and pillowcases and I thought I would ask to have as backing for my quilts. It’s far too good for that so on our bed now!! Also, a guy was offering 6 white towels that had gone in the wash with something a little bit blue. I asked thinking they could be made into bibs by Nana for [her granddaughter], again far too good to cut up so they are now in the cupboard to be used by us. Also I asked for a geranium cutting and ended up going to 7 homes and 2 people delivered, how lucky am I?my friend Trish Smith
And the karma continues. This time it was an unexpected present from my mum, who sent a Flags of the World jigsaw to her grandsons. They liked receiving it, but to be honest, big kid (aka their Stepdad Neil) ended up doing the puzzle. After we finished it, we gave it to one of my sons’s friends.
And remember that jigsaw puzzle I regretted giving away? I was cranky that day. But the lady who received it gave it on again in The Buy Nothing Group. It might have sat in my cupboard for years, unopened and unappreciated. But now it’s been shared by two other people – and it might even keep giving.
My youngest son went through a Lego phase. He was Lego mad. For a while. Then it died.
Over two years ago, he painstakingly put together three figures from a Lego rescue set (with his Stepdad’s help). Then he lost interest. We had it on display for ages, but basically it was just a dust collector. It annoyed me as it was on top of their cabinet and it made it difficult to fold clothes.
I listed it on my local Buy Nothing project group, and it was picked up a few days later by a guy who had been inspired by the Lego Masters series on TV. We had a great chat – he’s a lovely guy. He’s enjoying making sourdough from the starter I gave him, and he’s passionate about sustainability and helping the environment. I doubt I would have ever met him but for the Lego.
I was talking about Lego with decluttering and organistional coach Lauren Winzar during a 3-day toy declutteirng workshop she ran. Lego is one of those things we often hold onto becuase of the ‘value’ of buying it. It’s also one of things we tend to lose parts from – in this case, we had already lost a few (including the instructions) but mostly it was in good condition.
I also gave away a book to my friend Craig aka Craig the Computer Geek. I’ve got the habit of doing that now: whenever I know I’m going to see someone, I take something along to gift. Just in case. He patiently sat with me for over an hour and updated the latest version of WordPress to this blog and then connected Google Analytics. It must be super easy for him, but it was something that was super painful for me.
Last night we visited my inlaws. And we gave them a pet cushion. It was immediately put to good use.
This is Max, Neil’s old kelpie. We don’t know if he’ll see out the winter. That said, we didn’t expect him to live through the last two winters.
You might wonder what we were doing with a pet cushion as we don’t have cats or dogs living at home.
Well, my sons used to sit on the floor in a little nook in the lounge room while playing with their computer tablets. They sat there because it was next to the powerpoint and they could plug in their tablets (which they often forgot to plug in so were often flat. I used to think they *liked* to sit there so I bought the cushion to make it more cosy for them. Thing is, the same weekend we did that, Neil moved an old PC into the loungeroom from our bedroom. He fixed it, too, so it would actually work. After that, the boys wanted to sit in front of the PC playing games and were no longer interested in sitting on the floor. That cushion has been clutter for months.
We also took a box of scraps for their chooks. We’re really getting into the habit of doing that now.
We usually celebrate TGIF with homemade pizza and karaoke. This Friday, my friend Craig and my friend Ming came over. Like I usually do, I made pizza:
Ming has recently become interested in savings and finance, so I lent her a copy of Money Magazine. She loves Money Magazine and is likely to subscribe (I really love it, too, which is why I have a subscription). When she left, I gave her a copy.
And my Neil and Craig had so much fun. Craig loves playing the guitar, and Neil has five guitars (I think) that he never uses. We had a great night with good food, good company and good music. I packed him off home with leftover pizza.
One of the biggest costs for many people is socialising, something I discussed in a recent podcast with Jennie Roberts (it’s a great chat – I hope you like it). But when you’re with good friends, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Ever. Its the chatting and catching up that matter – not the cost of what you eat or what you drink. Do you agree?
It’s not just stuff – helping is also giving
A few weeks ago, Neil built a computer. He ordered the parts online and assembled it himself. It saved him thousands of dollars.
He mentioned this to one of my friends, and her son decided he wanted a computer, too. So they came over on Tuesday night, they talked through what they wanted, Neil ordered the parts, they arrived on Friday, and then on Saturday morning, he and my son’s friend assembled the computer together.
We guestimate that, by ordering the parts and building the computer, my friend ended up with a computer that was at least half the price (on some estimates around a third). It took Neil a few hours, and truth to be told, he really enjoys doing this:) As did my friend’s son, who helped him build it and was really keen to learn about how it all goes together. Sometimes giving isn’t about giving stuff – buying expensive presents and impressing. It’s often about helping and doing.
- Book: The Alexander Cipher by Will Adams.
- Audio CD: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz.
- Candle: Song of Oya (Joy).
- Candle: Song of Oya (Goddess Laksmi).
- 500 piece Ravensberg puzzle of a girl and kittens (three pieces missing).
- Microwave oven with plastic food
- Pair of boys shoes
- Lego Ninjago movie set
- Gina Ford baby lullaby book.
- Baby shape thingey.
- Helping a friend build a computer.
- Lego rescue.
- Pet pillow.
- A container of waste for chooks.
- A flags of the world jigsaw puzzle.
- Money Magazine, March 2020.
- Building a computer for a friend.
How are you connecting with friends and your community as we slowly come out of iso?