We Get By Giving
It has been around since the beginning of time -- Bartering. For centuries, people have survived on it; families thrived on it. This very simple exchange brought people together, saved money (especially where there was none) and cultivated forgotten talents and gifts.
The concept of bartering is very simple ... trading goods and/or services for other things without ever using any money. Communities grew by using the bartering system. Going back in ancient history, the Phoenicians adopted a simple bartering system that they picked up from earlier tribes, such as the Mesopotamians and Egyptians. It started out very simple, among family members, villagers, and grew rather quickly wherein the Phoenicians developed a very sophisticated network and bartered with people and far away nations. There was no such thing as money in Ancient Egypt, and their bartering system included food, textiles, livestock, jewels and spices ... even slaves. And, because certain minerals were such a rare, commodity in those times, it was quite common for Roman soldiers to be paid with salt, which was highly coveted.
Craftsmen bartered for grain, barley and other precious sources of food, and animals, using their skills as potters, weavers, goldsmiths, etc. The exchange was both powerful and practical. I've got what you need; you've got what I need; let us help each other.
So, the practice has been in existence for thousands of years. In our country's early years, people bartered for health care, paying doctors with a chicken or preserves. In some cases, an education may be bartered for other skills, such as cooking or sewing. Transportation was often paid for with eggs, a piece of carpeting or boots. To some, this may sound archaic, stupid and very impractical. Think again.
We are still in an economic crises, and things we took for granted for decades are now hard to come by. Baby boomers, like myself, are aging and while we are still in the mainstream swing of things, we are beginning to know our limitations, and because we are who we are, we know how to delegate tasks to others. However, many of us can no longer afford to. Life changing situations have put some of us in a tailspin. My grandfather always warned me that everyone -- everyone -- is one paycheck away from being homeless. Sit in denial if you wish, but 30 years ago, none of us thought we would have to work until we were 70; not by choice, but by necessity. Now, we are learning to sacrifice more and more. We talk about having more than our parents did at our age, but at our age, our parents were able to sit down and enjoy retirement.
In the State of Indiana, the minimum wage is $7.25/hour. Sure, you can live on that - but what quality of life do you have? What level of nutrition are you able to afford yourself? Everything you read about healthy eating tells us we must have five to 10 servings of superfoods per day. Really? Some of the foods on the short list include Blueberries, Blackberries, Spirulina, Wheat Grass, Asparagus, Seafood, Cherries, Pomegranate, Acai Berry, Maqui Berry, Goji Berry, Sour Cherry Juice, fresh powerhouse vegetables ... Fine. But, have you priced those lately? I've made the analogy before: a young single mother with two children reads this data in a magazine and wants what's best for her family. So they go to their local grocery store, and cherries are $6.99 a lb. That's barely enough for a one-time healthy desert for her children -- and maybe herself. Perhaps she could bag them up in sandwich bags for a healthy snack at lunch -- again, one time. Or, she can choose a sugar-laden dry cereal for the same price that will feed them for a week. Which do you think she is forced to choose?
Not long ago, it would not have been unheard of for her to barter her services -- perhaps tutoring, sewing -- anything -- for food. And nobody would have looked down on her. Today, there's this lame predicament called false pride that prevents us from reaching out to others when we (desperately) need help. And for some of us, when someone seeks help from us, while we may give it, it comes with a cost ... gossip, judgment and conditions.
As my life evolves again and again, I have been forced into situations that were not necessarily ideal for me, but I know I am in survival mode. I do believe in the law of abundance and prosperity thinking, but not in a cash or economical manner. I believe we get by giving, and we are all in a situation where we must lift each other up -- regardless of our predicaments. My yards (front and back) have been in disarray for two years. My garden was my pride and joy, but because of health and economic issues, I'm unable to tend to it the way I have in the past. Dependable/affordable landscaping is no longer in my budget -- and, so is concrete. So, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea yesterday. BARTERING!
I posted on social media that I truly needed help. My proposition was, "I bake; you mow!" Being a skilled baker, I was certain people who know this would jump on the opportunity. Well, it wasn't quite like that. You know, it was one of those posts that everyone reads, but quietly ignores. The concept of bartering terrifies some folks. It's as if you are asking for their first born child, or favorite chair. "What's in it for me?" Homemade breads, muffins -- a Key Lime Cake -- whatever! "How much cake would I get?" Well, that depends on what you think the yard work is worth ... I've paid $20-$60 to have it done in the past ... I also know my breads and cakes are priceless.
Then, finally, a friend messaged me that she thought she had someone who would be very interested. Praises Be! Without going into the details, I'm quite comfortable with this. So, I think I would like to continue bartering for other things. As an artist, I have tons of people who tell me they love my work, but don't know much about art, or don't have the money to invest in good artwork. Can we barter? Last month, I made another offer on social media - car repair for a couple of my original paintings (I even offered commissioned artwork) ... They laughed. The car repairs came to $862. The paintings (which had been on Criminal Minds, CBS TV), sold for more.
And so, I think we should look, step and walk way outside the box when we are faced with challenges we may not be able to afford, or can no longer physically do. There are always safe, comfortable and creative ways to get what we need and help each other out. About 40 years ago, I used to walk an elderly woman's dog in NY. In exchange, she gave me what she said was "junk" jewelry. It was not; it was estate jewelry that I cherished for many years. Of course, I sold that about 20 years later ... Life is full of investments. And sometimes the best investments we can make are in each other. Bartering is also an excellent way to get to know your neighbors better, and meet new people. We never know what one may have to offer -- unless we ask.
First Published 5/31/2015, by The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN
First Published 5/31/2015, by The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN