Have you ever heard of Gift Economy?
Simply put, gift economy is an economic system not of trade but of giving. For some people this might be a really strange concept – especially in a society where everything has a price and doing things for others usually comes with the expectation of a reward, or returning a favour later down the line.
When was the last time you heard a story in the news about someone doing something for someone else without asking for thanks?
At the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis there was a real sense of togetherness when stories about communities helping each other out started making headlines – it was a real reminder of all the good that people do, often unseen, and I think for a lot of people it was a big reassurance to see that even during times of crisis, people gravitate towards doing good.
Before all of that though, there were other stories. Maybe in the paper, maybe on social media, but made visible for everyone to see.
The coffee shops with Pay It Forward walls: mosaics of post-it notes promising a free coffee to someone who needed it, no strings attached. Like the great community hub Inspire. Community organisers organising neighbourhood litter picks. Like the amazing local hero Jamie Whittaker owner of The Gherkin who along with their team go armed with bin bags on local litter pickers, helping to keep communities safe and clean. We also salute the secret heroes: paying for the person in front’s shopping when they couldn’t afford to, for the simple reason of wanting to help someone out in their time of need.
These stories are so important; being reminded of how brilliant people can be toward each other is especially significant when the opposite is often more visible or clickable. Think about the stories you’ve seen, and remind yourself that they were only the ones that were written into a headline.
How many acts of giving often go unnoticed? For every story of giving you do hear about, how many do you not? How many times have you personally experienced a bit of kindness without expectation of reciprocation, and it’s made your day?
Communities have always pulled together. Neighbours have always helped each other out. Togetherness is human nature.
If you want a real affirmation of the good that can be done by giving, head to Gofundme, Patreon, Justgiving, or any of the many sites enabling people to help out and look at the numbers. Hundreds of thousands of people are already navigating Gift Economy.
Charities are too – and we’re very happy to be able to include ourselves in that! Thanks to gift economy, we here at The Owl and The Coconut have been very thankful to be able to offer pay what you can places thanks to funding from many organisations, especially Big Lottery Funding. As you probably know, we offer a supplementary mental health service using mindful art to reduce stress. All funding we get and donations we receive directly fund providing Mindful Art tools, so every investment, big and small, helps people to overcome matters of loneliness, isolation, sadness, stress, and enduring mental health issues.
These issues don’t discriminate by wealth, or location, or accessibility. Because of generous funding, we have been able to deliver mindfulness and stress-reduction courses to anyone who needs them, not just those who can afford them.
And, as we’ve had to move entirely online during the pandemic, this has also allowed us to break borders regionally as well – as many of you may know, for the last two years we had been based at Levenshulme Old Library and delivering services in person, but online we’ve been able to reach much further than that.
So, what does Ko-Fi have to do with this?
Ko-Fi is another giving site, where people can support ideas and services for as little as the price of a cup of coffee.
Take a minute to think about the last time you had a cup of coffee (or another hot drink – we’re partial to tea!) and really let yourself enjoy it.
Maybe it was this morning, waking yourself up with a cup of hot, dark, bitter coffee to chase away any lingering sleep. Maybe it was yesterday in the cool afternoon, when you’d made yourself a brew and watched as steam curled lazily from the cup. Maybe it was tucked up with a rich hot chocolate, made just the way you like it, a sweet treat for the weekend.
That still moment, where you were just in the moment, is what we do our best to deliver. Moments where you’re not worrying about the past or the future, where you give yourself a quiet minute in the here and now, where you can centre yourself and clear your mind in order to untangle your thoughts and gain clarity.
Mindfulness is an incredible tool that allows us to enjoy our lives more and gain a better understanding of ourselves. It’s used to calm, to focus, to relax, to centre, to reconnect, to enjoy, and most importantly, it’s used to bring awareness to ourselves in the here and now.
It allows us to Stop. Notice. Create.
So that moment you just thought about? If you were to buy a coffee from a coffee shop, it might cost you around £3. For the price of two of these coffees, it comes to around about the price of what it costs for us to be able to offer a free place to one of our meditation classes for someone who needs it.
Thanks to donations we’re able to provide important skills and tools to anyone who needs them, regardless of their personal circumstances.
So, fancy buying us a coffee?