The Art of Giving and Receiving

“We make a living from what we get but we make a life from what we give”
Winston Churchill
“We are now living in an economy not a society….everything has become a commodity”
Tom Keneally

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Must money be the foundation and measure  for every human exchange?  Is an amount of money the ultimate indicator of value? Such deep philosophical questions! And yet more than once they have emerged for discussion in my house sitting lifestyle. I don’t charge for my part of the house sitting arrangement and this decision I find, gives me a sense of freedom which I highly value. Though money usually doesnt figure in house sitting, I live an abundant life. When you exchange actions for money, all sorts of hidden assumptions and unspoken expectations enter the picture.
“If you do this then I expect…” try quantifying caring for animals when things go wrong -as they sometimes do in life! I was house sitting in Western Australia when I noticed a change in a cat’s behaviour. The owners had only recently lost a beloved border collie and didn’t want any more bad news, but I knew that something was wrong. I contacted the owners overseas, took the cat to the vet and within two days she had gone blind. A slow growing brain tumour was later found to be the cause. I was able to be with the cat as she passed quickly and, after discussion with the owners, buried her in the back garden.

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How could I quantify these actions and allocate a monetary amount to them? What I did was above and beyond the call of normal house sitting duties but life happens unexpectedly and in the case of a suffering animal, I would always do what I could to lessen the pain. Of course Veterinarians charge a fee and do quantify such actions but I am not running a business. I like to think though, that I was serving the universe, perhaps Artemis, Greek goddess of wild animals, or Bast, the Egyptian cat god.

That’s not to say that what I did  wasn’t valued and of course the owners were very grateful and expressed their gratitude  in their own individual way. In this house sitting lifestyle, I find that on balance I give as much as I get. My goal is to create a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the owners and their pets. I have the use of the home owners house and sometimes car, bike and pool and in return I can give them peace of mind that their home and pets are cared for with hopefully as much love and attention as they would devote to their animal companions.
Mangoes, wine, chocolate-organic and Swiss, gift cards, money, organic fruit, home grown veggies, home cooked meals, macadamia nuts, goats cheese, bubble bath, a bilum (bag) and necklace from PNG (Papua New Guinea) shower gel, hand cream, soap. All gifts from grateful home owners, all equally valuable and offered with love and respect. I hope I was able to give them the gift of joy and pleasure at receiving their gifts.

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Some relationships with home owners change and morph into friendships. Here the nature of give and take becomes fluid as we get to know each other better through some, though not all,  shared values. I have met some people, though who wont let this happen. It seems that they have trouble receiving as an equal and its as though they believe that the giver is more powerful than the receiver. Or is it that they perceive the act of receiving as a needy or passive thing? Maybe its an unconscious behaviour which they have been conditioned to do this early in life.
The art of giving and receiving in relationships is refined and strengthen when we come to appreciate the importance of all those intangible things which cannot be quantified and have a monetary value ascribed to them. Giving your time, attention,  willingness to listen to the other person and be changed by what you hear, help to build the relationship -whether it be with a new or old friend, home owner or pet.

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