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This place is a gift


The place is called “Café Intime”. It´s one of the last places of it´s sort. It´s very old Europe. Gays and artists, free spirited souls, jazz, kisses, deep conversations, subtle sense of humour, outspoken as hell, Ha! To hell with it all!

This woman is a gift.


This woman is called Persille (literally: parsley). She´s an urban farmer, she grows vegetables in her windowsills, she is also a protest singer and then she runs a rather large Facebook page about sustainability.

These people are a gift

These people met to talk about transition, gift economy, change and feelings, man, we need to talk about our feelings!
These people gathered around to send you a christmas greeting. Greetings from Copenhagen.
Just for you.


Marie Goodwin is a woman working with gift economy. She is a writer and a personal assistant to Charles Eisenstein. I think they both do tremendously important work and I really appreciate how they try to articulate gift and sharing economy, the foundations, the challenges, the possibilities. You can read more about gift economy here and Marie wrote a really good introduction to the challenges of running a business in the gift economy. I recommend reading about this. This is something… happening.

Not long ago I asked Marie Goodwin some questions about “the gift of the gift” and these are her answers.
This is also a gift.
Just for you.

Marie gave me her thoughts and perspectives, she gave me a little bit of time and she invested in our relationship by doing this for me… so that I could write this blogpost… for you. I invest in you.

What is a gift, Marie? I sometimes think that we, in our culture, look to the gift as an OBJECT but it could be more than that, right? What do you think a gift is? How do you define it? How do you articulate it? What does it MEAN to give someone a gift?

​I think a gift has two components: 1)  the first is need.
A gift must fill a need that exists in the receiver’s life, whether or not that need is known or unknown to the receiver. The giver, understanding the need, makes an attempt to fill it.
​2) The second is that a gift must create a bond between giver and receiver.
I think both of these things fly in the face of our weird, western attitudes about gift giving. We conflate charity with gift. Charity is giving without a bond and not really knowing anyone’s particular needs. We just give to give. That is an act of generosity, for sure. But it isn’t true gift giving. Living in the gift means being aware of opportunities to fill needs and to create emotional bonds (and receive emotional bonds) through the gift you give.


You have been working “in the gift” for a long time not at least in relation to your work with Charles Eisenstein.  I would like to hear about the challenges of this work? And has it changed you?

​The biggest challenge has been that almost no one knows what ​I’m talking about when I say, “I’m working in the gift…”
They think, “I’m donating my time for free…” (see note above about “charity”). There is a lot of judgement. When I say I have an almost full-time job, some people have pushed back and said, “Well, not really… you are doing your work for free, that’s not a job…” They don’t understand the gift economy and the relationship I have to Charles in the gift. I do other things through gifting too, like events as well as a side-business I’ve run. Each time, I have had to spend a LOT of time to get people to understand what the gift economy is and that gifting does not (NOT) equal free.
I wouldn’t say that working in the gift has changed me. It has set me free and affirmed my deepest notions about work. It has made me feel more happy around work, in service to something bigger. There’s really no price for that.Now we´re entering the season of christmas which is kind of like a season of gift. How do you perceive what is happening in our culture right now, this month?

​I see an incredible amount of consumerism and “gift giving” that is completely devoid from the actual needs present.
It is giving out of obligation. Giving because spending money on someone is now seen as what is important, rather than filling actual needs. I do think there is an actual longing for connection, but because we are so disconnected from people in our lives (living remotely from extended family, children spending most of their waking moments away from home and away from adults, not having any community), we don’t actually know what people need. What might be a really appropriate gift… what might build a bond between giver and receiver. We want the bond, but don’t know how to get there.How do you celebrate christmas? How do you give gifts? How do you raise your child to understand christmas?

​We celebrate Christmas, kind of. We aren’t Christian, so it isn’t a holiday for religious reasons at all. More because our extended family (and culture!) expects us to be participants. Really, the main celebration in our house is our yearly participation in our local theater’s presentation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a story about the gift of insight and deep change, the effects of true giving and relationship, the dire consequences for an individual who prioritizes money over everything else in life; and the presence of life-changing miracles. Learning and re-learning Dickens’ story is a gift unto itself every year. If you haven’t read it in the original, I highly recommend it.
We do give gifts to each other as a family and I try to be a mindful giver…but I have to admit … I really struggle with this one. I feel little joy (and a bunch of resentment) at the expectation of mindless giving. I don’t send out Christmas Cards, or drive myself to the brink of insanity to prepare trinkets for people. I’m not really handy or crafty, although I have been known to whip up a tincture or two for people to give them.
We try always to make Christmas earth-centered (solstice orientation) and each year our community has gatherings that celebrate the solstice, with drumming and fire.What is the gift of the gift? What will people gain from working with gift economy? What is the true nature of giving?

​I think the gift of the gift is learning to create and depend on community again. Trust is the main tenet of living in the gift. And it is really hard. But it is like a muscle that has not been used in awhile; with some use and time it grows strong. People really love receiving but they also love giving, and if you are seen as a giver in your community you will be taken care of when you have needs. Testing those waters and finding people around you is the best thing you receive from living in the gift. Knowing that you have a net underneath you is valuable beyond measure.

10 comments on “The gift of the gift

  1. BeeHappee says:

    Thank you for all the gifts, Andrea, and for your writing. I need that, so it is the best gift.


  2. Patty says:

    Thank you for this blog and also for the gift of introducing Marie and her work.
    I’m starting to realize that the greatist gift I’ve had this year is stumbling across your blog.
    Kind regards, Patty


  3. ncfarmchick says:

    Oh, this is something I struggle with so much. Hard to find others who feel this way to even begin creating or finding such a community. I do find it at my church (which has a very strong community outreach program), however, it is still a fine line between true gift-giving and charity, as Marie wrote. Will be pondering this for a long time. And, one of my greatest gifts this year has been discovering and reading all of Eisenstein’s work I can find. And finding your blog, too! Thank you for your words.


  4. Skovmanden says:

    This is axactly what we are going to do!
    Can be, some say it is hard to find others who feel this way but one out of four danes are doing some kind of volunteer work for little or no money at all. So why say that gift economy is hard to invent?
    I’ll get back when my idea is ready to blossom. Hope you’ll all be there to back it up then. 🙂


  5. I think Maries between charity and gift is really, really important too.
    I think there are some practical problems revolving gift economy for instance that you have to be very good at stating your needs and saying “no, I don´t need this” if people offer an exchange of gifts, a lot of us are not used to talking about value and prize in such specific terms, I for now find it extremely hard. So theres that.


  6. Bearpaws says:

    Andrea, you are a gift.


  7. I sure do miss places like that around here. I guess that is the price to pay for living in the northern countryside “away from civilisation”… 😉
    Yet slowly there is a circle forming, a small group of people who give…. whether it is clothes their kids have grown out of or an overabundance of fruit, vegetables or produce they can not use or just simply want to share with others. And none expect something in return, but are equally grateful if they themselves are given something.

    Mr. Eisenstein sure has some interesting thoughts and things to say. I think it is always good to read someone else’s ideas on similar matters. It helps to broaden one’s own views or encourages to reexamine them.

    Thanks for that.


    1. Thank you for your nice comment 🙂


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