The gift according to Marcel Mauss is the foundation of reciprocity. We give gifts to create an eternal relation of dependence to the other. There is a whole book and thought on the idea of gift exchange. But that is not what my post is truly about. It is about the gift that we chose for our wedding.
We realised we needed little. Andre was kind enough to accept to live in the house of my grandmother. It is a huge privilege to all of us. I want to be here always. He agreed and therefore luckily we did not need anything else material today. So we both agreed immediately, we do not need a gift.
Others did not understand this idea so well. They thought they needed to give us something. And so we created our gift. People’s presence in our party which was in another town to 99% of the invited people. That was our gift. Their presence. And again that was not good enough. So we created another gift. A donation to Nepal.
I forgot to tell people why. Many people thought it was a hippie idea. Some thought it was not nationalistic to give money away. And here I am to explain why Nepal.
We are aware there are tragedies all over the world. And we are aware we could never give that much money. Not even for one cause. So we chose only one cause: Nepal. To give at least a little.
Andre nor I have ever been to Nepal. But we love mountains. And we were together when there was a huge tragedy there. Not a political one. Those have always many sides to them. It was a climatic one. To those who do not know, Nepal it is located in the Himalayas. Bordered by Tibet/China and India. Nepal has eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains there. The highest point on Earth is there. So yes, you got the idea…. it gets cold. To those who do not know… it is not a buddhist country. It is a country populated by Hindus, Buddhists and some other religions. It is populated by people like us… human beings.
Their economy depends a lot on money that comes from tourism. So yes, a climactic tragedy in Nepal has destroyed not only houses, temples, trees, people but the tourism industry. That is very serious for them. They depend on that money. And as mentioned before crossing these borders led them to places that are overpopulated and have their own political problems.
So we chose Nepal. And I chose an institution that my friend Denise told me about. She said it was a good one. I met Denise in front of HH Dalai Lama in India. Then she took me to meet in her private meeting HH Karmapa. Then she asked me whether I could bring to London Lama’s clothes to Lama Lobsang. He became my friend. The tibetan Lama teaching Buddhism in Europe came many times to my house, and I came to his. After that Denise also introduced me to Lingtrul Rinpoche. So, yes, I trust her. The name of the institution is ajudanepal.org. It is a Brazilian institution and that way we could make deposits here in Brazil.
So in the day of our wedding I received many envelopes with cash and checks. So, back in Sao Paulo I deposited the money that was with me in the bank account of Ajudanepal.org
And then two things happened….some more money appeared here, other people gave, Andre had gifts of others, my grandmother and I did not know what to do now.
I decided before giving more money there I should contact the people. Had yet not spoken to anyone there. Since I could not yet reach anyone in the ajudanepal I decided I would make a donation here in Brazil. I could not keep that money with me. I asked Nininha, the cleaning lady, where did she recommend. CCA a school in Capao Redondo. Capao Redondo is a violent neighborhood and it is where Nininha, the cleaning lady, lives and it is where her child goes to school.
Being the honest woman that she is. She asked me to talk to people in the school first. So I did. They thanked me a lot. Some of this money has been given to a school in a poor and violent region to buy food for children.
Just now, I managed to speak to someone from ajudanepal.org . He was great. He knew Denise, he told me people were going now to Nepal. They would send me info. I was happy because anyone who has studied conflicts, like me, knows that in the beginning of a tragedy lost of people give money. It is always complicated because there is still no structure for the use of that money, there is waste and easy robbery of the money. And finally when they are no longer in such a complicated stage, they are also no longer in the News. So when people most need and can use properly the money they rarely receive it. They are distracted by a new tragedy in the News.
So we chose Nepal. Things are calmer now. They still need help. Now, however, few people help. So we decided it. This would be our gift. The gift of all of those who left them with us. They gave to Nepal and to a school in Capao Redondo. The receivers on both ends have now spoken to me.
So let’s hope we have made in Mauss’s terms and act of reciprocity. Solidarity is reciprocity in my mind. It is not in that “negative” term I feel reading Mauss. To me it is in the thought that we as human beings and all that exists is made of atoms. So we are reciprocal to all, after all they are just as connected to me as anything else. So our gift go far, I have not seen these people but we know we carry the same matter. They need them way more than we do. A gift is always a gift to all of us.