In an Utne Reader book called “GoodLife: Mastering the Art of Everyday Living,” Brad Edmondson dares to say that “collective behavior is often a cheaper, more satisfying way to solve a problem than cold cash. Relying on your friends, and being there when they ask the same from you, is one of the most effective ways to reduce your dependence on paid products and services.”
I can guess your response.
“PUH-lease, don’t give me any of that New Age babble!”
Does anybody in America today really believe that friends can take the place of money? Or that people who care about you can be just as reliable as a bulging wallet?
You won’t catch a glimpse of this phenomenon on television or in the movies, but I saw it with my own eyes at my friend Judith’s wedding.
It all began with Judith asking if she and Michael could have the ceremony and the reception in our yard. I felt like their request was a gift to Jack and me, a testimony to our friendship and our regard for one another.
“How many guests are you thinking of inviting?” I asked.
“One hundred and fifty.”
How do you feed that many people on a limited budget? Judith asked her guests to bring food and drink instead of wedding gifts. How do you entertain that many people? She also asked her friends who make music or sing to perform during the reception. Her friend Anna, a painter, agreed to create a chupah, the canopy under which Jews marry, and when guests arrived, Anna asked each of us to cover ribbons with warm wishes for the couple. Then she hung them on the four poles she’d made to support the chupah and they blew in the breeze like Buddhist prayer flags, sending their messages of love into the air. As Judith came down the aisle, my husband played Pachelbel’s Canon on his tuba.
By the time the ceremony began, everyone was giddy. The tables were heaped with sushi and paella, Chinese noodles, and lasagna. A string quartet played Mozart. The guests mingled, murmuring, “Isn’t this food delicious?” and “Didn’t you love that story?” It wasn’t just the sunshine that made this one of the warmest weddings I’ve ever attended. In the end, all Judith and Michael had to pay for were the rented tables and chairs, her pink lace wedding dress, and three teenage girls to set out the food.
When love is the currency of exchange, everyone gets rich.
I see the economic benefits of friendship all around me. When my friend Nancy lost her apartment and needed someplace to stay for three months, a woman from our church offered her an empty bedroom. At our church auction this year, our family made the highest bid for a house on Cape Cod over the Memorial Day weekend. All eight of us vacationed for three days in Dennis for what it would cost two people to stay in a hotel for one night.
In a culture that values autonomy above all else, we can forget that we are relational beings, as dependent upon others for our survival as the tiniest ant in the colony.
As all these examples prove, you can replace money with people and thrive. You replace people with money at your own risk.
xxxx KERSHNER AWAY Columnist Jim Kershner is on vacation. His column will resume Aug. 16.
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