Saturday, November 28, 2009

The "Giveaway", Lakota tradition

I recently read an article about a woman who began giving away her precious items, per the tradition of the Native American Lakota tribe.  I can't remember where I read it, but it was fascinating because the items she gave away were not castoffs or unneeded trivial things.  She gave away her favorite and most treasured items.  What a concept!

When I read it I couldn't wrap my head around the idea.  At first I thought it was a subtle idea of simplifying life by giving away clutter.  But to give away the very finest things one owns?  Wow.  The premise was to give away something loved so that someone else could feel that love.  I did some research on the Lakota Indians, and generosity is one of their four main tenets. 

To try and understand, I tried to evaluate my most precious possessions, and sadly couldn't really come up with anything other than my children.  Sure, there's photos of family and friends that I treasure, and always my stacks of books.  In terms of heirlooms I don't have much:  an unfinished quilt from my Grandma Bessie, a tiny little pair of leather crib shoes of #3, some drawings of birds that #2 made, and a couple of handmade items I made when my boys were little.  That's it.  And in reality, those are precious only to me.  I could live without them.  Strangely, that felt really good to realize.

It made me think of all the people out buying gifts right now, willing to stand in lines overnight to purchase a gift that may hold no sentiment to the recipient.  Really, they are only giving 'stuff'.  How to know if a gift has real meaning?  If one followed the Lakota tradition of the "Giveaway", what if you gave something you loved to someone who stuck it into a drawer and never looked at it again? Or got any sense of what you gave them?  Is that the point?  That you simply don't know?

I once did an intricate embroidery stitched nautilus shell for a friend who collected shells.  It wasn't cutesy at all, or tacky.  It was based on an actual scientific drawing of the nautilus.  It was classy!  Ha.  I had it framed for her.  She smiled kindly and said a hearty thanks.  A few years later, there it was, on a table at her garage sale.  And yes, she charged me 25 cents for the frame (the embroidered piece was free with purchase, LOL).  She must have forgotten (I can only hope) that I had given it to her.  So I got it back with a sense of humor, but never forgot that I had labored for so many hours on it and that was a waste.  Or was it? 

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