A beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl.
When I was a student I was working in Germany during the summer holidays. Some years I worked on farm fields. It was a hard, physical work, usually 11-13h daily, six or seven days a week. My goal was to earn money so that I had enough to cover my expenses during the following 9-month study.
No doubt, working on field abroad was a life changing experience. Not only tested it my weaknesses and hardened my Spirit, but made me deeply appreciate the luxury of learning (instead of doing the mundane work, of course). I have never forgotten that.
Every year I had a big challenge though. It was accommodation. A basic hotel room was very expensive and although I could have afforded it after the first month of work, I still did not have enough to pay in advance. Money was tight. So, I usually borrowed the money from the farm owner after the first week of work.
This was the time when Germany only started to accept legal workers from East Europe. It was unsure how much trust they had. In addition, spending 1/3 of my earnings on accommodation (and another substantial amount on food + gas) was an inefficient strategy to maximize the savings.
There were better solutions.
One year my boyfriend and I met a German family who was renting a small flat at that time. They offered us a beautiful room of their 1-year old daughter in exchange for the basic utility costs. It happened because a co-worker we had met the previous year simply inquired by this family whether they would be willing to help us. Amazingly, they were. So, they hosted us that year and the following year – the last year of the study.
They did not know us, yet they welcomed us, complete strangers, to live in their small flat and to spend the little free time we had with them. It is true we were mostly out, but when we were in, we were a disturbance. We were bringing smells and dirt from the field. We were cooking dinners in the late evenings. We were making noise. And we were no entertainment, whatsoever, as we even felt too exhausted to talk.
They had trust. They had love. And they had a strong sense to share what they had. I find it remarkable to this day.
When at the end we asked them how we could return the favor, they simply said:
“Help one person in need.”
And this was a powerful moment in which I learned about giving and receiving.
I have practiced that ever since. I’ve learnt to appreciate gifts that come my way and to value them. I say “Thank you” and I mean it.
I’ve been taking initiatives to help people in need, offering books, time, advice, attention, accommodation, money, and so on. I challenge them to give back what they can offer to another person who is yet to cross their life path. Kindness is contagious.
There is a natural flow of value exchange we want to maintain. We may want to reject a gift when we feel we have nothing to offer in return. No need for that.
Give with joy and receive with appreciation.
Give and receive.
A sequel post on giving and receiving is here.