Day 1: A New Story of Gifting Soup

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photo by F_A Seelensturm, Flickr

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?

4 thoughts on “Day 1: A New Story of Gifting Soup

  1. Thanks for sharing your story and the video. Having just finished a course with Charles, I appreciate your bringing gift principles into your intentions and actions. I’m inspired.

  2. As an undergraduate I was always fascinated by the early Frankish economy which was based on gift giving and hall living, not as a way to show power but as a way to acceptance and mutual respect. Of course, along came the pesky Romans to end all this Barbarian nonsense but I’ve always wondered what would have happened to their society if it had continued. I think ‘giving’ is about how we view our ourselves and our fellow human beings. An economy based on giving rather than taking must surely be more successful for everyone.

    1. In high school history, I remember being fascinated by descriptions of the Potlatch tradition of the Athabaskan First Nations people on the West Coast of Canada. Textbooks back then tended to reduce the potlatch to a status buying exercise in an attempt to fit those practices into our modern Western stories of what matters, but I always thought there must be more to it than that.

  3. Fascinating and agreed. As a not very good Archaeologist, I was always concerned about the interpretation we placed on ‘evidence’. I still believe it probably says more about ‘us’ than ‘them’!

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