“There’s are only two stories: a man goes on a quest, a stranger comes to town.” — John Gardner
Before I left for Seattle, I got this idea I couldn’t shake: I wanted to spend 24 hours in Seattle without money. A few years ago I wrote about Heidemarie Schwermer’s commitment to living without money . I had recently revisited her story with my friends who talk about gift economy on a regular basis.
Perhaps this was idealistic. But on the other hand, I was really committed to this. I was going to live through the consequences of my decision, no matter what.
My hotel accommodations were covered–thanks to my program director–for all but the first night of my time in Seattle. I investigated the same hotel for one night and it was a gazillion dollars… money I didn’t have. So this thought came up: I should commit to giftivism for 24 hours and see what connections I could make with Seattleites and find out how far I could push myself out of my comfort zone. Could I depend on kindness and our connection to take care of me? Not mooching, but seeking a deeper connection with people.
I made up my mind that when I arrived in Seattle, I’d check my suitcase a the hotel Concierge and then hoof around with a backpack for 24 hours, seeking legal ways to be of service that hopefully would realize my basic needs…. without depending on money. I thought about it deeply: I had a lot of ghosts about this, but dug my spiritual heels in. I was prepared to go without, if it unfolded that way.
I wanted to live in Give Economy for 24 hours. I did not want to use money–not particularly because I didn’t have it, because I have a credit card, but because I am committed to living with a deeper awareness of money, and cultivating a healthier relationship with it than I did the first 40+ years of my life, so far.
In our collective conscious and culture right now, money promotes a gross untruth: That we are NOT connected to or dependent on each other.
If I arrived in Seattle and used money I could have everything I needed, all tidy and comfortable, an experience to fit my needs and expectations. But NOT using money meant that I lose control of all of that, and my experience of Seattle would be limited to my own creativity and connections with people.
I believe human beings–ALL OF US–are connected and dependent on each other. Money offers this false notion –a false sense of security that we can take care of ourselves, by ourselves. To a certain extent money sterilizes our connections with people. Money keeps us nice, transactional and quaint.
Now I’m not saying all money is always used this way, but typically when I travel, that is how I use it: to organize my experience as close to my expectations and needs as possible, thus limiting the depths of connection with people. Removing money got rid of the safety nets and opened me up to new people in extraordinary ways.
As I told a few friends about this, KOOKOO BIRD noises were swirling as I spoke. You guys were UBER concerned and fearful for my safety! I didn’t feel worried at all. I put myself in other people’s shoes: If someone was committed to doing what I wanted to do, how would I be able to help them?!
I promised my friends, no back-alley Mother Teresa-inspired she-roics. I was hoping I’d get to Seattle and work my way around the hotel and see who I could meet who might need my help with the next something. I figured if I helped, maybe they would buy me a cup of yummoh Seattle coffee, or lunch or let me sleep on their couch. That was my plan.
Well, I am grateful to stay I DID live in gift economy for 24 hours, but not the way I planned. Right before I left Raleigh, a friend of mine got in touch with her brother and his wife, residents of Northern Seattle–Shoreline to be exact. She told them my plans, and they said they would like to put me up for a night. And pick me up from the airport.
So my idea of how I would have to explain gift economy went out the window.
I accepted their kindness… the kindness of strangers.
It was really hard to let go of control. I had thoughts like, they must think I am a Mooch! Like I am a taker and user, and looking for a free ride-ugly thoughts that when I checked in with my heart I knew these were not true.
I texted a photo of me while I was waiting outside of Baggage Claim. I hoped my flight’s late arrival was not inconvenient to them. Gulp. It was hard. Was I imposing?
Then they found me. Big smile and handshake, and the car door opened. I was now sitting in the back seat of these two very kind strangers’ car. And woh, now they are now driving me–a stranger–and graciously pointing out different things on the rainy Seattle skyline.
I thanked them for their kindness and for hosting me that night. The man–whose name I won’t use because I didn’t ask permission–said, “You can stay with us on one condition.” I said, “Ok, what is that?!” He said, “You have to allow us to pay for everything!”
Double gulp. Holy Shmoly. Ok…. where is the eject button? I need to get off this ride! Now, not only are they putting me up, but now they are taking me out to dinner (well lunch by their time). Allowing such magnitude of kindness to be gifted to me was really hard. But I needed them.
We talked about this thing called kindness and shared stories about how the hardest kindnesses are the ones we must receive. They concurred….and laughed as they paid for my delicious seaside lunch.
After lunch, we arrived to their lovely home and they showed me my delightful room. I met their cat, who was rather put out by my presences, as he preferred MY room to all others, but he didn’t like me, and was not pretending anything. My new friends made some tea. We sat and talked for hours. I was mega jetlagged, but being a storyteller, I wanted to make sure I shared my heart with them and perhaps a few good stories. Perhaps they might enjoy my visit and not feel burdened by my presence.
We talked. We laughed. We connected. They told me wondrous stories about their family, their world travels, their lives in Seattle. And now their lives as retirees.
The next day they took me to see the Ballard Locks, where the boats and ships come through the canal to switch bodies of water. It was really beautiful.
And here is a picture of my new friends, from behind.
After the Locks we went to lunch and they again treated me to Vietnamese Pho–pronounced Fuhhh.
Yuuuuuuhmmmm! They took my photo 🙂
They made me laugh as they told me about another pho restaurant called Pho King! LOL. Remember? it’s pronounced Fuhhhh.
We had a wonderful 24 hours together. I left them a little Joybird card and little art tile I made, small tokens of my HUGE gratitude.
I was inspired by their gentle, constant kindness. I enjoyed being with them. I was grateful to them. I also thanked my EGO for letting go of control so I could share a deeper connection with two wonderful human beings. I was surprised this experiment in gift economy wasn’t difficult or tough on me–well except to my ego. They taught me that an experience does not have to be difficult in gift economy to be authentic and meaningful.
I am so blessed to have two new friends.
Thank you for reading my Mindpebbles. I will continue panning my memories for the brightest pebbles of truth and beauty…. there are quite a few.
so much love,