Dear NLRBE Diary: Living Gift Economy and NLRBE Principles

Published March 28, 2014
My Family and I - August 2013Hello everyone!

Here is my first substantive “Dear NLRBE Diary” post. For the introductory piece in this “Dear NLRBE Diary” series, click here.

I’ll begin by bringing you up to speed on our family life, how it has related to the NLRBE vision, and how we arrived at our current focus on living gift economy/NLRBE principles.

Unbeknownst to us, this experiment really began when we managed to set things up so that I could stay home to offer attachment parenting and unschooling to our children. That is, intensive parenting gave us our first, real, adult opportunity to engage deeply with non-monetary, gift economy, collaborative elements of life, all of which I see as amongst NLRBE principles.

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In what way did intensive parenting involve living key gift economy/NLRBE principles?

It’s my sense that childhood is the first place we experience gifting. In that case, we experience it as receivers. The young child cannot even live without the unconditional giving of adults around it. And she arguably cannot grow to her fullest potential without a mother’s attachment parenting gifts in particular – e.g., breast-feeding (for more details on this topic, click here).

Similarly, it’s my sense that parenthood, and motherhood especially, is often the first place many of us begin to really live gift economy/NLRBE principles as adults, only this time as givers.

In keeping with this, upon the birth of our first child, and the beginning of my time at home with him, we found that the lives of every member of our family were suddenly defined mostly by gifting – with my husband and I as the primary givers, and our son as the primary receiver.

More recently, another area in which we have begun to live gift economy and related NLRBE principles is through home food production.

We opted into intensive gardening this year for the first time, mainly in order to try to save money.

As we got into it, however, I began to have a feeling like I was, for the first time, fully embracing nature’s gift economy. I thought about how the sun shines and the land yields fruit, without demanding payment from beneficiaries first. Notwithstanding the fact that humans do try to divvy up and restrict access to the sun and land, this is not nature’s doing. The sun’s rays warm our skin if we simply stand in their midst. The land will support our bodies so long as we stand upon it. And the soil will produce food to nourish us, so long as it’s needs are sufficiently met.

So, since we, in our family, happen to have a little bit of that sun and land, why not stand, with open arms, in the stream of those gifts, thereby also removing ourselves to that extent from the monetary system? That is, why not replace some of our purchased food with nature’s gifted food?

Why not indeed.

True, as noted above, nature often cannot yield all of her potential fruit without her needs being met. But this is not a matter of an attempt to restrict access as a punishment, for not yet doing what she needs to produce fruit. It is simply the reality of her “biology,” if you will. (By the way, I’m speaking purely metaphorically, not trying to personify nature in any literal sense.)

Plus, I started to realize that this might be a way to enrich the gift economy we have between our family members as well. I was imagining everybody chipping in, as they were moved, to give to one another in a collaborative process of growing and processing our own food. And this has indeed been the way things have unfolded thus far.

These gift economy/NLRBE elements have been soooo unexpectedly sweet and nourishing.

That said, there have been some thought-provoking “downsides,” which I’ll get into in future posts.

Until then, thanks for “listening.” I hope this little glimpses into our process have been, and will continue to be helpful.

By Tiffany Clark, an activist attorney, public speaker, and author, working to help us transition to a more sustainable and equitable world. Tiffany lives and works in Sacramento, CA, with her husband, two sons, cat and dog. You can find out more about Tiffany, her activities, and her offerings, as well as read more of her writing, at

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