Bartering with Burden

This post transpired after a conversation with my friend Jess a few weeks ago, wherein we agreed to swap one of her FABULOUS Slice pies for some of the meat from the deer my husband and I harvested during hunting season.

We went on to lament that bartering isn’t a more viable option in our economy and communities. However, I am encouraged by the fact that there is a reality show about dickering. In addition, in the small, up north town where my husband and I own 40 acres, the exchange of goods and services is common. People are so relationship-focused that it just makes sense.

With that bartering conversation brewing in the back of my mind as a blog post, it occurred to me that there is one institution in which bartering is the ONLY currency – relationships. Now, before you chalk this up to a cheesy Hallmark post, hear me out.

You can’t offer someone $20 to spend time with you. (Okay, I hear those snickers. Get your mind out of the gutter, as my father would say. Pay attention.) The only offerings we have for one another are time and love…showing up, listening, laughing, engaging. We exchange pictures, recipes, child care, hospitality, jokes, and the list continues. Sometimes the exchange is seemingly unequal, but it all shakes out in the end like a 30-year home loan.

Last week it became very evident that there are several denominations of currency in the relational economy – to include pain, stress, confusion, depression… and that list continues as well.

Upon completing our family photo session on Monday, thanks to a gift from our very talented photographer friend Heidi, I looked at my cell phone. I typically receive one or two texts an evening and maybe 10 emails, most of them from commercial entities. But that night I had several texts. From different people. All struggling.

We had been celebrating our son’s second birthday and smiling into the camera; meanwhile, across the nation, my friends were in pain. Deep depression. Financial pressure. A dying parent. Marital tension. Job frustrations.

My husband warned me not to internalize all of this pain. Ha. Funny. I thought. But I don’t see ‘internalize’ as a four-letter word. My friends’ pain went right to my guts, where it fueled the fire for sending back love, prayers and healing thoughts to them.

Being on the receiving end of burdens is not as horrific as the sharer of those woes might think. They apologize profusely. I  am so sorry. I know you have your own troubles. I know you are busy. I just don’t know who else to talk to. No one gets it. (If you ever call me, don’t waste time saying any of those things.)

Then, the real kicker. Thank you for not judging me. What? Are you kidding me? Do you really have friends that, if you called them about your medical debt or dying relative, would say, “Well, you really brought that on yourself. I have a book you should read; then you can avoid pain altogether and wouldn’t have to bother me with it.” Sheesh. With friends like that, you don’t need enemies. (Credit: My Mom)

And so we barter with burden. And we are better people because of it, alleviating each other’s pain and realizing that we are not alone in our own. We ask people to help us hold on to life when we cannot, so we carry the load together, knowing full well that favor will get returned again…and again.


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