Potlach – Encouraging Generosity

I received some information the other day from the DailyOM that I’d like to share with you. I think it goes very well with my Decluttering and Green podcasts.

The article described the Native American tradition of the “potlatch.” It is a tradition that values generosity above all else.  A potlatch, which is a very grand ceremony, is an exercise in giving away material possessions, food, and money.

Apparently, it is not uncommon for the host of a potlatch to give away so much of their own resources to guests that the host ends up with nothing. However, the host can regain this wealth by attending potlatches as a guest.

 In this way, a potlatch validates generosity and encourages the flow of resources in a community, while at the same time continually reaffirming the importance of community ties.

This paragraph really made me sit up and take notice, because it reminds me of what I learned from “John Jr.” in my car ride with him, as detailed in Podcast 9 on “Living Green”:

“When we are held in a web of trust and connection, we can give generously, knowing that when it is our turn we will be supported. In this way, our whole sense of ownership becomes less individualistic and more communal. Resources are in an acceptable state of flux, moving within the community through the vehicle of the potlatch, which serves the additional function of strengthening community ties. This seems clearly preferable to isolating ourselves from one another and hoarding our resources.”

Isn’t it time to create a community in which a flow of resources happens in this way, in which we support one another to be generous?

The “Give Away Girls’ Nights” listed in my book is an example of a potlach – having fun, and giving away an object that is dear to us. By doing this, perhaps we can inspire someone there to throw their own potlatch. And so on, and so on – by starting this out, trusting, and loving, perhaps we could find ourselves with a tradition that supports and validates generosity even as it creates a safety net for leaner times.

Don’t just think about it – do it.