Tag Archives: sharing

Corn

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbours. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbours when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbours grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

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reblogged – Clare T Walker (my niece)

Principle 7: Collaboration

 

Balance prudent self-reliance with healthy, interdependent relationships.

Some time ago, I came across a book called The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century[1](written by two psychiatrists). A quote from the book:

“Being neighborly used to mean visiting people. Now being nice to your neighbor means not bothering them.”

I think this anti-social attitude has infected much of the technologically advanced world, not just America. We leave people alone because we think that’s what they want, yet loneliness has become a hallmark complaint of modern men and women. We dare not show our faces on our neighbors’ front porches…

…yet we scrawl updates on the walls of their facebook pages, we tweet until our smart phones are hoarse, we forward emails to all our contacts. It’s paradoxical. We have an explosion of online social networks, endless opportunities to “connect,” but how many of us scroll through our computer screens, feverishly hitting the delete button, just looking for something—anything—from someone we actually know or that we actually want to spend time reading?[2]

It’s good lift up our eyes, away from our screens, and be really physically present to other human beings.

illustration from the front cover of O Come Ye Back to Ireland, painted by Christine Breen

Susan K. Rowland, in her book Make Room for God, discusses at length Sarah Lanier’s[3] comparison of “hot-climate” and “cold-climate” cultures:

“Hot-climate cultures are communal, group-oriented, inclusive and spontaneous. Cold-climate cultures are more individualistic, privacy-oriented and interested in structure and productivity.”

My parents grew up in England—which has elements of both hot- and cold-climate cultures—but cultures definitely collided when she encountered the true hot-climate culture of southern California in the 1960s. She and my dad had just moved to America with their infant daughter (me). After several months of dealing with the apparently certifiably insane population of La Mesa on the odd side of town, they moved into a new place. My mom, expecting the worst, battened down the hatches, unwilling to interact with more of these crazy Americans.

To no avail: one morning there was a knock on the sliding door of the kitchen. In walked her new neighbors with freshly baked goods and coffee. Long story short—these two or three families spent the next five years raising their small children together, and even though they now live across the continent from one another, they are friends to this day.

What does any of this have to do with simplicity?

Living and working in close proximity to other people, and building intentional community with them, simplifies things because you can pool resources of time and energy, tools and materials, emotional strength and physical skills.

“Many hands make light work.” (John Heywood, 1546)

Cocooning with just our nuclear family on the back deck while the front porch remains unused isolates and limits us. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you can ask your neighbor if you can borrow his wheel. And, even though we are sturdy, self-reliant Americans, we don’t have to do everything alone in this increasingly cold-climate culture:

  • The Amish and other “plain living” subcultures excel at the principle of collaboration, with their barn-raisings and other community activities.[4] [5]
  • Busy yuppies Niall Williams and Christine Breen experience the beauty of community and collaboration when they move from Manhattan to rural Ireland and work side-by-side with their neighbors on their farm.[6]
  • In The Way (2010, Directed by Emilio Estevez), a man grieves the death of his son, and also honors his son’s memory, by walking the historic “el camino de Santiago” (“the way of St. James) in France and Spain. On the journey he discovers the beauty of community and collaboration.

I’ll finish with a little anecdote from my own neighborhood. A friend who lives nearby was over at my house putting the finishing touches on some electrical work he had very kindly done for me.

As he was leaving, he said, “I think I’ll take my ladder home with me today, because I’ll need it for a project I have to do at my house.”

“Okay,” I said.

Then, after a moment’s thought, I said, “I think that ladder might be mine.”

“Hm,” he said, furrowing his brow. “Are you sure?”

We went to look at the ladder. It had been back and forth between his house and my house so often in recent months that neither of us could remember whose ladder it actually was!

He took it and used it for whatever it was he was working on, and I think it’s in my garage at the moment.

“Any culture emphasizing productivity cannot allow us to spend much time socializing.” (Susan K. Rowland Make Room for God)


[1] The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century by Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz (2009).

[2] Social Clear Cutting: Can Our Social Media Behaviors Destroy Our Social Environment?” This is a very good post by author Kristen Lamb. She writes passionately about the need to forge real connections with other people. Her target audience is other authors attempting to construct social platforms to promote their creative work, but her articles and books (We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer) still speak to anyone disillusioned by online social media and searching for rewarding interactions online.

[3] Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures by Sarah Lanier (2000)

[4] Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender (1989)

[6] O Come Ye Back to Ireland by Niall Williams and Christine Breen (1987)

 

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The Biscuit Thief

The Meenister’s Log

Happiness isn’t something we do, but something we experience by sharing our gifts and lives with other people.  This wonderful touching “Cookie Thief” story helps support the fact that our role is to receive, thank the Lord, and share the blessings we have received .Thank you to the anonymous author for this significant story.

The Cookie Thief

A woman was waiting at an airport one night

With several long hours before her flight.

She hunted for a book in the airport shop,

Bought a bag of cookies, and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see

That the man beside her, as bold as could be,

Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,

Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

She read, munched cookies and watched the clock

As the gutsy “cookie thief” diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking , “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye!”

With each cookie she took, he took one too.

When only one was left, she wondered what he’d do.

With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,

He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half as he ate the other.

She snatched it from him and thought “Oh brother,
This guy has some nerve, and he’s also rude,

Why, he didn’t even show any gratitude!”

She had never known when she had been so galled

And sighed with relief when her flight was called.

She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,

Refusing to look back at the “thieving ingrate.”

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,

Then sought her book, which was almost complete.

As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise.

There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!

“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair,
“Then the others were his, and he tried to share!”

Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,

That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!

 

There are several variations on this

 When American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand first discussed this legend in his 1984 book The Choking Doberman (new York: W.W. Norton), he referred to it as an “English story” dating from around 1972 or earlier, one he had not yet encountered in the United States. As the above variant shows that  it became  an American story, too. It has also made its way around Europe, Australia, and New Zealand since the 1980s. In a variant reported by Arthur Goldstuck in The Rabbit in the Thorn Tree (London: Penguin Books, 1990), a South African woman traveling in the U.S. mistakenly believes her biscuits are being “purloined” by a black man sitting next to her in a restaurant.

Wherever it may be told, “The Package of Cookies” (or “The Packet of Biscuits”) is a cautionary tale about prejudice and jumping to unwarranted conclusions. The supposed thief is usually a member of some minority group, be it a black person, a homeless person, or an immigrant, and the supposed victim most often retaliates in some way that proves personally embarrassing when he or she later discovers there had been no thievery after all.

The tale was famously included in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (New York: Harmony Books, 1984), a novel by Douglas Adams, who was also known to relate it in interviews as if it was something that had happened to him in real life. According to a flurry of news reports in June 2008, a version of the story also turned up in an unfinished manuscript by novelist Ian McEwan, who expressed surprise when audience members recognized it during a public reading.

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The Sharing of Marriage

The Meenister’s Log
The sharing of marriage…. The old man placed order for one hamburger, French fries and a drink. He unwrapped the plain hamburger and carefully cut it in half, placing one half in front of his wife. … He then carefully counted out the French fries, dividing them into two piles and neatly placed one pile in front of his wife.
He took a sip of the drink, his wife took a sip and then set the cup down between them . As he began to eat his few bites of hamburger, the people around them were looking over and whispering. Obviously they were thinking, ‘That poor old couple – all they can afford is one meal for the two of them.’
As the man began to eat his fries a young man came to the table and politely offered to buy another meal for the old couple. The old man said, they were just fine – they were used to sharing everything.
People closer to the table noticed the little old lady hadn’t eaten a bite. She sat there watching her husband eat and occasionally taking turns sipping the drink. Again, the young man came over and begged them to let him buy another meal for them. This time the old woman said ‘No, thank you, we are used to sharing everything.’
Finally, as the old man finished and was wiping his face neatly with the napkin, the young man again came over to the little old lady who had yet to eat a single bite of food and asked ‘What is it you are waiting for?’ She answered
 
‘THE TEETH.’

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