I'm not going to write a book review. Partly because I haven't finished the book yet. Partly because you can find book reviews all over the place. But read this book. I'm not being facetious when I say it is one of the most profound things I've ever read. It is targeted at artists, but I think anyone who has an interest in community - what it looks like, and what it can look like - will benefit from reading this book.
I'm a third of the way through. One of the ideas Hyde has raised that has really impacted me is on the concept of wealth. We live in the most consumer-oriented culture in history. To us, "wealth" is to have. However, in a culture of gift-giving, "wealth" is to give. Really fascinating stuff. I won't even attempt to re-articulate the things he addresses in this book, simply because Hyde does so very eloquently, and I know that I am only beginning to grasp the ideas and won't be able to articulate them with the same gravity.
Another thing he touches on is how it is viewed to remove a gift from the cycle of gift-giving. It's like robbery. Which has me thinking about what I have to offer - physically, of course, but the "gifts" I have in me, the things I'm good at. For me to not use them, to hold them back, is robbing from the cycle of the gift and from the people who can benefit from my gift. Who am I to judge whether my gift is worthy or not? The value of my gift is not based on how it compares to the gifts of others, but is based on how much of myself I give. In the Bible, in Matthew chapter twelve, Jesus is watching people throw their gifts into the treasury in the temple. I think the lesson to be learned here definitely applies directly to financial giving, but just as much if not more to the giving of ourselves. A widow throws in two pennies, and Jesus says
"Truly I say to you that this poor widow has cast in more than all those who have cast into the treasury. For all cast in from their abundance. But she, out of her poverty, has cast in all that she had, all her livelihood."
I really want to highlight that. If I put my gifts in that context - specifically my "gifts" in terms of the things I offer to my community and the world around me - is it fair for me to hold anything back? I tend to think of myself as a person who is fairly good at lots of things; and not extremely good at any one thing. I'm not sure if that's accurate. But do I approach the things I do as gifts to my community? To my people? If I did would I give everything I have, or hold some back for myself? Isn't it pretty selfish to judge my gift unworthy before I even give others the chance to decide for themselves? Essentially, it robs my community for me to not give every ounce I have of every gift I have. By comparing my gift to the gifts of others I turn it into a commodity. A commodity is valued based on how it compares to other commodities. A gift, however - a gift is valued based on how much of it you gave....
Wow. I don't know if that blows your mind like it does mine, but I've got some things to change in the way I live.