March 2018 - Van Life Part 7: Vulnerability and Generosity

from by Kimwei

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I live in a van. I'm saving up for heating. In the meantime, I got through this winter by house sitting. I earn my living teaching music on Skype and rely on borrowed offices for that. A question I'm often asked is "Do you feel vulnerable?" The answer is yes, I am vulnerable. There are certain things I need and don't own, but there is also plenty that I have to offer. This allows me to create relationships with a wide range of people, based on consensual exchange. What do I mean by that?

Well at the start of the month, snow levelled the city and it levelled the people as well. Shops shut. No matter how much money you had, you couldn't buy bread. Within a few hours, barter, exchange and a unconditional giving had sprung up in every community. The local park because home to all ages, out sledging on anything from the cardboard box the tumble drier came in, to surfboards, body boards, baking trays and even a ghastly old painting.

I lent out my waterproof socks and in turn was lent some shoes, when mine sprang a hole. A boy with no gloves swapped a few goes from on his sledge for my spare mittens. We checked on the neighbours. This is the power of a gift economy.

Living in a van is a bit like that day at the snowy park. I've experienced generosity so overwhelming I've wanted to cry, and at the same time, been shocked at what I'm willing to give without a thought. Not having my own house reminds me that I'm vulnerable and that I'm capable, that I'm worth giving to and that what I have to give is valuable, and that each time we give or receive the relationships around us strengthen.

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from Pause For Thought: BBC Radio Devon, released January 30, 2017

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