Over the last few months I’ve been working my way through Charles Eisenstein’s book, Sacred Economics. At the heart of the book is a call for a return to an economy based on gift-giving. Finding a way out of the growth economy system we are currently tangled up in is not only essential for the health of our ecosystems (including the societies that are part of those ecosystems), it would also enable us individually to live more satisfying, connected lives, this I firmly believe.
On Thursday, I must have had Eisenstein’s story in the back of my mind when I headed off for lunch at Union of Genius. This little soup shop has a customer awards scheme based on using a reusable bag and bringing back the biodegradable packaging for composting. I had recently filled my reuse, recycle card and I was looking forward to cashing in on my free soup. However, as I pushed open the door, the sign hanging in the window reminded me of the Café’s suspended soup programme. Happily, I’m in the position where I can buy myself a lunch when I need to and I would have reused and recycled even without the incentive of the card. So when I got to the counter, I redeemed my card for one soup and purchased another. One soup went to me and the other I paid forward so that someone in need could collect on it later that day. In this way, money still exchanged hands, but two other exchanges were made as well: the cafe’s gift to me in the form of a soup reward and my gift to some stranger in the form of a suspended soup. Plus, I got a smile and thanks from the soupista, the emotional lift from an act of generosity and a sense that a gift-based economy is actually already here. Can it be as easy as stepping from one story into another?