I’m taking an online college Anthropology class and one of the main concepts being considered is the social structure of reciprocity. The text book describes three kinds, General, Balanced and Negative. All of the examples and information presented was about what might be considered primitive societies. But this morning I’m seeing just how much developed societies are dependent on these social constraints.
In other words…I’m working on my Christmas card list. I used to do my Christmas cards Labor Day weekend while watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon. For almost 30 years this was my personal tradition. I’d stay up late, watch the performers, learn about the advances in MDA research and address cards to those I wanted to reach out to in the coming months. I didn’t do my cards in September. Jerry Lewis was fired from the Telethon with no public explanation. I was set adrift with my box of cards and my address book.
The premise of General Reciprocity is that it will all even out in the end. Maybe the people I send cards to this year don’t send me one this year but people I didn’t send one to send me one unexpectedly. Kind of a general swirl of little envelopes moving around through interconnected circles spreading love and friendship via the US Postal service.
Balanced Reciprocity would be a match up of those going out and those coming in. I’m on your list and you are on mine. This is fun. I know several people on my list who buy Christmas cards in bulk or just bought one box with my name on it and send me the same card every year!
Negative Reciprocity is just what it sounds like. The flow is pretty much one way. Some businesses have adopted this as a marketing strategy. So far I have received a dozen or so cards from companies I have done business with over the past year. No real relationship there just a point of sale. This gets denser when email cards are added to the mix.
So, while I sit with my little box of simple cards with the preprinted names I examine my heart and wonder why I’m sending them. Is it so you will send one back and I will tape it to the inside of my front door and feel a sense of worth because of all the people who took the time to mail me a card? Is it because I feel like it is expected. After all I’ve done it all of my adult life. (Except last year when I misplaced the box of addressed cards on my desk and thought I had mailed them. Found them in the January cleaning.) Or is it because I want you to know, in a small tangible way that I am glad you are part of my life?
We may not be Facebook friends and we may not follow each other on Twitter or any of the other social contact outlets. But if you read my blog and you have one too, I read what you post. It matters to me. And if you find a little white envelope in your mailbox over the next couple of weeks, it’s because you are on my list…my prayer list…my “because I care” list…my “come over for cake and coffee” list…my “I wish I saw you more often” list….
No R.S.V.P. necessary. My Christmas cards have nothing to do with reciprocity. They have everything to do with my heart. And my heart’s desire for you is….
“May your gifts be those of
Peace and Happiness
Holidays and the New Year”
Now I’m going to refill my coffee cup and address some little white messengers of my heart.
P.S. If I don’t have your mailing address, expect a message from me.