A gift that does nothing to enhance solidarity is a contradiction

his heart in his face

I am not exempt

Charity is meant to be a free gift, a voluntary, unrequited surrender of resources. Though we laud charity as a Christian virtue we know that it wounds. I worked for some years in a charitable foundation that annually was required to give away large sums as the condition of tax exemption. Newcomers to the office quickly learnt that the recipient does not like the giver, however cheerful he be. This book explains the lack of gratitude by saying that the foundations should not confuse their donations with gifts. It is not merely that there are no free gifts in a particular place, Melanesia or Chicago for instance; it is that the whole idea of a free gift is based on a misunderstanding. There should not be any free gifts. What is wrong with the so-called free gift is the donor’s intention to be exempt from return gifts coming from the recipient. Refusing requital puts the act of giving outside any mutual ties. Once given, the free gift entails no further claims from the recipient. The public is not deceived by free gift vouchers. For all the ongoing commitment the free-gift gesture has created, it might just as well never have happened. According to Marcel Mauss that is what is wrong with the free gift. A gift that does nothing to enhance solidarity is a contradiction.

by Dame Mary Douglas (25 March 1921 – 16 May 2007)
from No Free Gifts, her classic forward to
The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies (First English publication 1954)
by Marcel Mauss (10 May 1872 – 1 February 1950)
image used by permission – qthomasbower (Wonderful! Check him out.)

Not so fast!

Gift. Donation. Bribe. What is the difference? Do we take time to consider?

The cynic in me thinks I know very well when the “free gift” is really advertising, a seduction meant to ensnare for not-so-altruistic purposes. The cynic may be right. The deeper me cringes and is ready to walk away. But, wait! Let’s pull off the self-protective blinders and back up and think about giving.

I believe that every true gift comes with a sense of honor. We are honored by the giver. We honor the giver with our acceptance and appreciation of the gift. We don’t feel bought – in our hearts we are, in some way large or small, sanctified, connected to all gifts and all givers.

The deeper me, the part that cringes and wants to bolt, that part needs more time than the protective cynic. It only takes a moment to say “no.” “Yes” has levels. “Yes” needs time to feel and consider and be brave enough to look under the edge of whatever it is.

Did you agree or disagree with today’s quote before letting the whole paragraph sink in? Go back and go deep. Go on – it won’t take as long as it seems, and you may come away richer.

This New Beginning is My Gift

And that goes both ways.

QuoteSnack is back. I was waffling over if today was really the day to get back to daily posting, when I got an email from the editor and co-founder of MakeUseOf.com. She was letting me know they’d included QuoteSnack in a post, “Top 8 RSS Feeds For Motivational Quotes of the Day.” Yesterday QuoteSnack got another nice inlink – gamers may know joystiq.com. Marvelous.

Gift horse, your teeth are just fine and I’m here and ready for action.

And… no strings, but… please please please — LOL — I have a favor to ask. I want you to help me re-launch QuoteSnack. Please head on over to the MakeUseOf post and give it a boost with their Social Media buttons, and leave a comment about QuoteSnack. MakeUseOf has a weekly newsletter that is sent to nearly 340,000 people, a selection of each week’s posts are featured in the newsletter, and I’d dearly love to get their attention.

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2 Responses to “A gift that does nothing to enhance solidarity is a contradiction”

  1. Juanita Says:

    Not a facebooker or a twitterer, but I am a commenter, so consider yourself “gifted”, E 🙂 And congrats on making it onto the top 8 list – you blow the competition out of the water with your literary style!

  2. E. A. Able Says:

    Thank you!!!

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