Gifts And Stewardship, How Do They Relate?

“It is ironic indeed that money, originally a means of connecting gifts with needs, originally an outgrowth of a sacred gift economy, is now precisely what blocks the blossoming of our desire to give, keeping us in deadening jobs out of economic necessity and forestalling our most generous impulses.”  Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Eisenstein

I could have chosen any one of many quotes written about “sacred economics” from the referenced author and book above. Another, “the original purpose of money was simply to connect human gifts with human needs, so we might live in greater abundance” offers a clear human (could be sacred) purpose for money.  Money is a symbol, belief and catalyst for flow and therefore, gift giving. Gifts are sacred.  The spirit of gift giving means we receive what has been given to us and from that gift, we follow suit.  Gifts are meant to flow.  Either we enjoy them for a while and then pay it forward or we use them, digest them, transform them and pass the gift on in another form.  As I digest this way of viewing money and gifts, I am tending to my direct experience of receiving and giving gifts – with awakened eyes and heart.

The concept of stewardship has shaped my life journey since my early teens, when my father and I shared a meaningful 10 minute conversation about chattel (tangible property).  In a sentence, we gazed at the antique family furniture in room and my father proclaimed, “Gayle, we don’t really own anything in the world, we are merely stewards.  We take care of, enjoy, improve, and preserve the chattel bestowed upon us until the next steward comes along.”  The last few years I have held this way of being with grace and curiosity rather than staunchly as my family duty.  Originally, I experienced  the role of steward  as an obligation,  burden and even honor rather than the elegant caring of our planet for the next 500 years.  Expanding the view, I wonder, what is a steward?  And, what are these gifts we receive to steward, really?  Recently the subject came to light as my father talked about giving furniture to me that I did not want or need.  When I appreciatively declined his gift, he promptly inserted, what about your kids?  They may want or need these things.  Maybe, maybe not.

For the last twenty years my partner and I have stewarded two (used to be one) very large (now) plants given to us from his mother. The plant was originally enjoyed in her grade-school classroom while she taught for twenty-five years.  When we received the gift, the plant was 25 years old so adding the years we can say these plants are about 45 years old. You might wonder what this new conversation is about. Let me explain. We live in Massachusetts where the winters can be quite cold. The plant type thrives in southern climates. Visiting San Antonio, Texas a few years back I saw this species all around the river walk. What the heck were we doing with this plant in New England?  Every winter we bring these mammoth sized plants indoors. The basement is usually the winter home and the plant begins to decline. The first sign of spring, we take the plants outdoors to breathe and begin to revive. By fall, the plants are full sized and happy. This cycle has been repeated for twenty years. My partner wants to keep the plants for our children. Is there a pattern here?

Processing these thoughts and experiences, I am led to wonder:

•    Do the gifts I bestow on others come from generous impulses or do they carry an invisible obligation?
•    How am I stewarding all that I “own” in the broadest possible way, which includes a sufficient way of being, rather than scarcity and/or abundance?
•    What are the next easy action steps to rekindle a sacred gift economy, given that our world is in desperate need of “doing money” differently?
•    How can I honor the gifts received with appreciative stewardship?
•    In an economy that rewards selfishness and greed (for the most part), what would a system look like that rewards generosity?

What questions and feelings surface in you as you delve into the origin of money, gifts, stewardship and the ways you walk in the world with these concepts?  How can you align your deepest motivation, generous impulses, the sacred gift economy and the other in all of your gifts?