We spend so many of our waking hours working that thinking about giving at work has to be part of my 29 day experiment. Once you’ve been paid money to do something, can that something ever be a gift?
Charles Eisenstein writes about how the economy grows through absorbing more and more of the gift world into the money world. Partly the economy does this by quantifying whatever it can assign numbers to. I used to do a lot of batiking, decorating t-shirts for myself and making gifts for others. Then one day I got it into my head to make a small cottage business out of it. This was long before the days of Etsy and craftivism. I did a few craft shows, but preparing for shows killed my love of batiking. Painting t-shirts no longer felt creative. Dying them no longer held the magic of alchemy. To get enough t-shirts made at a fast enough pace to make the whole endeavour financially worthwhile, I had to adopt a Fordist-style production line. Where’s the fun in that?
So when has my university work felt like a gift these past few days? My meetings with students, in which they come to me with problems and I’m able to help them in some way, usually just by providing them with support, encouragement or a sounding board: those occasions have felt gift-like. Yesterday, I facilitated a short reflective writing exercise for chemistry students about to go abroad as part of the Third Space Project, helping them to get in touch with their deepest thoughts and feelings about their forthcoming adventure. Running that workshop felt more like gift-giving than work. Running story-telling and writing exercises for the Third Space project feels like gift giving. This work makes full use of the creative skills I’ve been developing over the years and provides a channel for my passion in using story to help a better world. I also do it on top of my required work duties, i.e. it’s not what I’m paid directly to do. I’m not sure if that’s relevant, but I throw it in the mix.
Maybe the money, the being paid, is completely irrelevant to whether or not it’s gift-giving. Maybe it’s all about doing what you love in service of the World.