I’m sitting at a coffee shop in San Francisco, thinking about how to make the world a better place.
As I am travelling around the US and meeting new people, I realize there is an opportunity with every person I meet to spread a little more good in the world. The possibilities for doing this are endless, and I like to think I can do much more than give a smile and warm wishes of a great day to folks (even though that in itself is fantastic!)
It’s a common belief that in order to create a better world, we need to give more: give our money to charity, give food to the hungry, give time as a volunteer, give hugs away for free on a street corner, among other things.
These things are all awesome—keep doing them, or start!
But here’s what I have been pondering:
What does receiving have to do with contributing to a better world? And on that note, what about asking to receive things?
Speaking of giving, here we are sharing and celebrating Canadian thanksgiving on the beach in San Francisco.
I have been traveling thus far on my US road trip with a lovely duo that intends to travel the entire world without any money (Check out my video interview with these two guys.) These guys are experts at asking for shit. They walk in to restaurants, explain what their mission is and then ask if the restaurant has any food to spare. Depending on where they are, they seem to be successful at getting food about 50 percent of the time.
Yesterday they tried at a bakery, which gave them a massive bag full of bread the bakery had otherwise been planning to compost. It was such a win-win: the bakery owners were happy their bread was going to be enjoyed, the bread was not wasted by being thrown into the compost, the boys were able to fill their tummies and they even had enough to give away. By asking to receive, the boys were able to make somebody else’s day brighter (’cause we all love giving!) And they were able to make many other people’s days brighter by offering them free bread.
The best part about this whole chain of events, is that when you receive, you automatically feel more like giving; so the chain keeps on growing.
A little psychedelic mirror-fun at Burning Man decompression in San Francisco.
My own experience at Burning Man this past summer can attest to that:
Burning Man consists of a temporary, experimental gift economy, where people bring things to give and expect nothing in return.
The interesting thing with that is, as I was constantly being given things with absolutely no expectation of reciprocity, I found this incredible urge within me bubbling to just give more. It’s totally contagious!!
In order to cultivate a better world, perhaps it doesn’t start with giving. Perhaps, it begins with asking, and receiving; the piece where we then give more will flow naturally from that.
If you want to make the world a better place, here’s an idea: spend your time collecting food that would otherwise be thrown away, give it to other people, spread massive positivity in the world and reduce waste. However, be warned that other people might think you are “doing nothing with your life,” and that you are not being a contributing member of society.
On the other hand, you could spend your entire life selling overpriced houses to people, make a ton of money, spend that money going on vacation and getting people to serve you and you’ll likely be considered a success by many people.
Later in the day yesterday, I walked past a car that had its window smashed in, where someone who was clearly in a desperate situation had gone to desperate measures to get what he/she needed. It got me wondering what would shift for us in this world if more people just asked for what they needed, instead of immediately going to desperate measures under the assumption that others won’t be willing to give or help out.
A lot of the time when you just ask for what you want or need, other people are more than willing to help you out.
This morning I even tried asking for a free coffe—and I got it!
Now I’m not planning on asking for free coffee all the time when I can afford it, but I am planning on asking for what I need more. By asking for what I need, I am helping others to give and to experience the joy that comes with giving. As a result, I’ll likely feel more inclined to give to others, because I have been given to, and so the domino effect continues.
As I travel around, I am becoming more aware of my interactions, and the plethora of opportunities there are to give and receive; there is something that connects people when a gift is given with no expectation of return.
By asking for what we need, we recognize our interdependence and allow the opportunity for this type of exchange to occur. Furthermore, this type of interaction provides a great opportunity for awesome conversations to occur, leave all people involved a little more energized, positive, enthused, and jazzed for life!
And of course, these interactions are contributing to a brighter and better world.
So here’s to receiving.
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Assistant Editor: Gabriela Magana / Editor: Catherine Monkman