In this time of reinvention, what we pay for, what we give away, what we exchange is changing fast.
I’ve only at the lovely age of 50 started to get my head around my deeply ingrained issues about money, value and returns.
It is in my nature to do a whole bunch of things for free, give away my expertise, ideas and time.
But sometimes I have ended up wondering why I do that. Is it to make a difference for others, or to make myself feel good.
Hmmmm, it really is something to think about. What do we do for others and why. In the area of storytelling, what do we share for free versus sell? Or exchange. And what value do we put on these exchanges and ourselves?
This has really come home to me on two occasions just lately where goods and services I received were part of the so called ‘gift economy’ so I paid what ever I liked for them. This is more confronting than one might think.
What is something really worth to us? Instantly I went to calculating what it costs to produce and offer these services; in one case a Vipassana meditation course, another some food at the Wise Cicada cafe in Auckland that runs on gifts and no charges. But what was more valuable was to stop and think what the value of these things was for me, and how much did I want to support the enterprises that were ‘doing good’ for others.
The whole process of thinking about value and exchange is getting really important, as our material world seems to be blowing out.
There continue to be many stories being told in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake; some in the gloom and doom formula of the mainstream news media, some anecdotes online and spread by word of mouth. Everyone in New Zealand has a connection some how or other. We all want to share in the experience somehow.
This story is one that moved me deeply.
I know a Maori kaumatua, or elder, who lives in the North of New Zealand who had a lot of family in Christchurch. Immediately after the quake, he paid for more than 40 family members to be flown to a family farm in the far north.
It was a shock to the system for the family all round; for the family traumatised by the quake, as it was for the family taking in a large number of people. But also a shift in culture from urban to rural living overnight.
The kids had to quickly get used to the idea of living in tents, using longdrop and portaloo toilets permanently. They learnt how to catch eels in the stream and pigs in the hills. They learnt how to walk several kilometres to a rural school.
The family on the farm approached the kaumatua and asked if he had some money. “Oh some I suppose, what for?”
They told him: “Enough for 15 bags of cement. The ground in the tents is getting muddy, we want to build some concrete pads and make it more comfortable under the tents.
The kaumatua helped out, but said to the family, don’t forget you always have a resource here, just sell some beef to get some cash when you need it, and grow some veges.”
This is as I understand it, the Maori way. When there is a need, family responds. We have heard about people taking others into their homes from Christchurch, but nearly 50 people is something else.
There is a lot of talk in New Zealand right now about something called whanau ora, roughly translating as family wellness. It is a concept government is funding to try and improve the lives of Maori, or potentially have Maori improve their lives for themselves. Many people are cynical about the concept. Many authorities are trying to quantify it in wester health policy terms.
This little story is the perfect example of whanau ora in action. Maori, in touch with their roots, collectively care for one another when a need arises. Everyone mucks in and finds an instant solution.
It may not meet all the rules, and from a distance look rough around the edges, but it is a response to a need. Maori, whatever their circumstance always provide manaakitanga, welcome, hospitality, care and love for others when ever and how ever it is needed. And maybe this model might be far better than so many flawed ones taht we use in western society for health and wellbeing.