Anakin is still in the hospital, and I am at loose ends. His little lungs are still too “wet” to work on their own and my brother and his wife find themselves traveling about 100 miles round trip each day to be with their infant. To make matters worse, my sister-in-law has also developed an infection and is not feeling well.
A rough start for little Anakin and his family.
So, later today I will make a trip of my own—purchase some gas gift cards and other plastic monies that I can slip in the mail in hopes that it will bring some small measure of stress relief to these worn-out parents.
Because this is what we do when we are in community with one another. We give gifts out of love and concern for one another.
If we lived closer, I would make them food…watch their other children…offer hugs.
These gifts of the heart bring us together, bond our kinship community.
In this week’s chapter of The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, Lewis Hyde talks about this very thing.
“If we take the synthetic power of gifts, which establish and maintain the bonds of affection between friends, lovers, and comrades, and if we add to these a circulation wider than a binary give-and-take, we shall soon derive society, or at least those societies—family, guild, fraternity, sorority, band, community–that cohere through faithfulness and gratitude.”
Hyde says that gift exchange gives our community “equilibrium and coherence, a kind of anarchist stability”. He also asserts that when gifts become commodities the opposite will occur—the group will become fragmented or may disappear altogether.
This reminds me of some research I learned about in Psych 101. Results of this particular experiment showed that if an action is done because it gives intrinsic value, when an external reinforcer (like money) is given for doing it, it ceases to be internally rewarding.
(I remind myself of this study whenever I am tempted to give my boys an allowance J)
Hyde would say that the freedom we feel in making a choice when to give our gifts, helps promote the gift economy. “…the rewards of community lose some of their luster when they are not a matter of choice,” he says.
I have been the “far-hearted” one. Our family has gone through seasons of estrangement in which, to emerge emotionally healthy, separation was necessary. It was not so much a deliberate turning-of-the-back as it was an emptiness.
We had nothing to give each other.
There was nothing to tie us together.
Yet, as I age; as I watch my children grow, I come to recognize the invisible ties that bond family. And so, I extend my hand. The heart tenders with age, and memories become forgiving. I remember happier times, times when we were bound by more than blood.
Perhaps this is my year of jubilee, and, as the Lord commanded the Israelites (Lev. 25), I will cancel all debts owed. I am free to give and forgive because my spirit has become richer. I am enjoying this shared relationship with my family, in its infancy though it is.
I am discovering, as Hyde says, “…that it is not when a part of the self is inhibited and restrained, but when a part of the self is given away, that community appears.”
I find that, bless me, I want this community. I am free to make this choice. I give, not because I have to, but because my heart compels me.
So much has been given for me. I cannot help but to think of the One who gave Himself when I read Hyde’s words: “The man who has emptied himself with giving has the highest name.”
And so it is in emptying ourselves that we become vessels to be filled with Him.
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