This week, I reflect on the words shared in “The Gift of Strawberries” from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and remember all the gifts I have received from the neighbors of Enderly Park. The gift exchanges in this community are unlike the ones I have experienced in any other area before. I was welcomed with open arms by neighbors who have never met me before but excited to share their stories with me as if I were an old friend. The youth were a bit more wary at first but slowly became amused by my efforts to get them to try new plants in the garden. As my relationships grew with those around me, the gifts became deeper and sweeter.
In a similar understanding of Kimmerer’s interactions with the strawberries, I know I have done nothing to deserve these gifts from my neighbors and that is what draws me to give gifts in return. “Gifts from the earth or eachother establish a particular relationship, an obligation of sorts to give, to receive, and to reciprocate.”(25) It took many years to see how empty it felt to give but not accept gifts in return. I became so fearful of receiving gifts that I became secretive about the gifts I wanted to give, leaving tokens of appreciation anonymously at a door. It was only until recently that I realized it was because I had the wrong idea about receiving gifts. I felt that receiving a gift was a burden that I put on another. It seemed to me that I somehow enforced a string attached from my own gift, making those I love feel obligated to give to me in return. Now I see that rejecting a gift from others is rejecting a relationship that is deepened by this give and take. Too often do I see volunteers step into service with only the intention to give that they oversee all that the community they are helping has to offer. The real work is with the people and everyone has something to give, everyone has something to share. By accepting the gifts of stories, love and trust from my neighbors, I can see how much stronger our relationships have become.
Thank you for the gifts of listening, understanding, and learning Enderly Parks. Your trust and abundance showers me with gifts every time I step off my porch.
Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2013.