Ever since I started my crochet experiments, a random thought has taken residence in my consciousness. Has this seemingly innocuous activity made me more generous? And is that a good thing?
The whole adventure began with a Christmas gift by a colleague – a crochet beginners kit which contained a few needles, three balls of yarn and a book explaining the basics of crochet. It felt intimidating at first but by lowering my expectations and putting aside fifteen minutes each day to try my hand at it, I was able to overcome my low opinion about my abilities.
Not only did I go on to create and gift hats, blankets and tops to family and friends, I began to actively look for projects that I could apply myself to. And of course, once the project was done, I looked for a suitable recipient. Now I am in a phase where I am actively soliciting requests for items suitable for my amateur skill level. I am keen to make and hand over items that I have spent time and lots of effort on to people with no strings attached.
Am I being weird?
Fruits of the earth
A few weeks ago, I visited the condo adjacent to the one I live in to look at a possible place to move to (long story short, we decided not to move). The agent, Angela, who was also a resident, was eager to show off the property including common areas and facilities. At one point we found ourselves overlooking a rectangular piece of land which seemed like a lush garden with fruit trees, spindly creepers and flowering bushes.
This was their internal vegetable patch, an initiative that had taken root during the pandemic and was now blossoming under the care of gardening enthusiasts/residents who volunteered their time for its upkeep. I admired the large curry leaf tree with its heavy branches. Angela called out to the man who was pruning branches and asked if we could have some curry leaves.
Within a few moments, he cut two generous sized branches, one for Angela and one for me. In addition, he plucked a few calamansi limes and handed them to us with a wide smile. He proudly showed us the beans on the creepers, the chikoo fruit and the other leafy vegetables under his care. It was all done so quickly and with an easy spirit of openness that there was no question of offering to pay for what was clearly a gift.
I walked home with a smile, filled with gratitude for the unexpected bounty in my hands and felt a great responsibility to make use of what I had been given. Unlike store bought produce which sometimes gets spoiled before I have a chance to use it, I quickly made sure I converted these curry leaves into a form that would keep for long. This interaction between a stranger who had put his time and sweat to grow the vegetable garden and me as the lucky recipient felt like a very personal encounter that I wanted to treasure.
My sweet tooth
My colleague Julienne, the one who gave me the crochet kit, ventured into baking a few months ago. As with everything she does, she dove right in, studying Youtube and Tiktok tutorials, researching ingredients and substitutes, and trying out the most complex recipes that called for exotic ingredients. And of course, she needed people to taste her creations and give feedback. She also needed people to simply receive the yummy treats that came out of her kitchen because you can’t eat all the desserts that you make.
I have been indulging my sweet tooth almost every week with matcha cakes and chocolate mousse that look divine and taste heavenly, thanks to the surprises Julienne brings to the office. She takes orders for custom birthday cakes and sometimes brings over her latest kitchen experiments, all of which are delicious. I have shared some unused stuff from my pantry including gluten-free flour which I rarely use and cardamom powder, which is a staple in Indian kitchens but may be difficult to source otherwise.
What is the common thread between my tendency to undertake crochet projects solely for gifting others, the kind gentleman next door who gladly shared the bounty from his garden with a stranger and Julienne’s urge to feed us sweet treats?
There is money and time and effort involved in each of these creations but somehow the connection between the calculating part of the brain that seeks something in return for our labors seems to have been broken.
We are happy to hand over our labors of love without expecting anything in return. Are we being weird? Or simply generous?
The subtle art of reciprocity
In the world that we inhabit, most things are acquired, used and appreciated after we have paid for it in monetary currency. Very rarely do we barter or hand over things without immediately receiving something in return without paying for it in some way.
But if we look closely, there is so much we give, receive and exchange at the energy level – a birthday blessing, a condolence message, a get-well wish. We receive invitations for meals to the homes of friends, we ask our neighbors to join us for a walk, we provide recommendations, or advice when asked. We offer congratulations, share tips and borrow resources as needed. Our relationships, with each other, with nature and the world around us is not always transactional.
Perhaps when we become creators, we dip our toes into the universal current through which inspiration flows, so does generosity. And at some level we know that sometimes we find ourselves on the giving side and equally often we are the ones receiving. The wheel of life does not discriminate. It simply turns. When we understand this cycle deeply, we become more open to both, giving and receiving. All we need to do is remain open.
Do you agree?
Photo credit: Julienne C