Simplicity of Sharing
My friend Justin is a starving artist type who lives in an apartment building filled with other young hustlers. During a horrible storm, their building lost power and unprepared, he found he owned no flashlight only one candle. He wandered the hallways in the dark and learned that most of his building mates also only owned a candle or two. Spontaneously, he invited everyone into his apartment to pool their candles together and wait out the storm with cheap wine and charades. It was a surprisingly spectacular evening.
While living in Australia for a few years, my sister fell in love with the country’s library system. Instead of limiting the borrowing to books, they had a library system for other things like kids’ toys. Brilliant. Why own toys for every stage of life when the child grows up so fast? You can check toys out for a month, and just when the child gets sick of them, it’s time to exchange them for something else. If a toy hangs on in the heart of a child and needs to be renewed, well then the parent may decide to make a purchase, but this can be the exception, not the rule.
And then there’s Ben, whose neighborhood started a joint Google doc to itemize large, expensive tools so people knew where to go to borrow what. One neighbor has a twenty-foot ladder. Another has a circular saw. It goes on. Everyone on the Google doc feels comfortable borrowing these items for that one day or that one project a year because they are lending out their items as well. More sharing, less needless purchasing and storage.
These things seem so easy in theory, but setting up systems of sharing in order to simplify and cut down on consumerism are actually quite difficult in practice. Why, when everyone benefits, is it so hard to share? Is it really just our society’s value of independence? Are we still the kids in the sandbox who just want our own toys? We know we are more than what we own, so why are we so protective of our stuff and our privacy? I say and mean we because I am guilty of it. I believe in simplicity through community sharing, but I am bad at it in practice. It seems like less of a hassle to drive myself instead of carpool or wait for the bus. I buy books as much as borrow them, you know, in case I need them someday. And I have a strong preference toward self-reliance and privacy over knocking on doors in the neighborhood and welcoming people into my life. Then I hear stories from Justin and my sister and Ben, and I think, “That makes so much sense! I want to be more like that!” And I guess the only way to start is to start.