Pay It Forward: The willingness to receive

We have a culture of giving here.

I am honored to be asked by the Homer Foundation to write this month’s Pay it Forward article, where we celebrate philanthropy in our community and the many delights and benefits that come from being part of a generous community. We have an incredibly generous community here in Homer at the shores of Kachemak Bay. We have nonprofits by the dozens, and generous businesses whose work is every bit as mission-driven as our nonprofits. We have social organizations and educational organizations, sports organizations and arts organizations. We have amazing parents who give generously of their time and efforts to help our students have sports and arts opportunities. We have individuals and organizations who take care people, of land, of water, of animals, of community. Too many to even name really. We have a culture of giving here. It still falls short, sometimes, of the tremendous need, and of the work it takes. But a generous intent is most certainly here.

I remember reading an anthropology book when I was in my early 20s that discussed Northwest coast cultures’ Potlatch ceremonies. I was fascinated by the idea that one gained status by giving wealth away. That spirit of generosity is very much alive in this place we call Alaska. I am not Indigenous, but I understand this to be a strong value in Indigenous cultures: that of sharing, of giving to one’s elders, of giving back to the land. It is also a value to many who are not originally of this place and who have come here to live and build a community together. It is the spirit of potlucks, and good neighbors, of barn-raisings, of helping where one can.

But what I want to write about today is not just about giving, but about receiving. We need that give-and-take to make it all work. Receiving allows for that flow of generosity to circulate in our community. We have been through three tremendously challenging years of pandemic and political and social strife. It has not been easy. What I love about living in this generous community is that we can ask for help, and we can accept that generosity to replenish our own spirits. By asking for help, we create as much connection as giving it. We need both to create an abundant and dynamic economy and society.

As we begin a new year, consider accepting the generosity of our community. Sign up for that free yoga class at the SPARC. Take Coastal Studies up on their winter programming at the Wynn Nature Center. Ski on the trails maintained by the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. Snowmachine on the ones maintained by the Snomads. Go to our social organizations. Play broomball or hockey. Snowshoe the Homestead trails. Visit the Food Pantry. Join a wellness group. Seek counseling if that would be of service. Ask for help with the bigger challenges.

Sometimes it is difficult to ask for help. We are reluctant to impose, or to be a burden. But accepting help replenishes us, and it gives someone else the opportunity to be generous. This back and forth of giving and receiving, this is how we become a resilient community. We can do so much more together than we ever can alone.

Adele serves as Bunnell Street Arts Center’s executive director. She is active in trails and walkability efforts, sings in our community choir, has made performance and wearable art, acts, grows vegetables in what was once her lawn, and is much interested in creating a world based on responsibility, reciprocity, and giving.

January 2023

Nonprofit Needs

Homer OPUS is looking for heated storage space for violins and violin cases for youth music programs and our lending instrument library. Please contact OPUS at Homer Community Food Pantry could use fish, moose, beef, pork, or anything else people have in their freezers. Canned goods, dry goods like noodles, rice and beans, and anything for easy meals like peanut butter and jam are always appreciated. South Peninsula Haven House needs bobby pins, cough drop lozenges, disposable gloves (size medium), dishwasher pods, water filters for Britta pitcher, food storage containers, healthy baking mixes, alternative milks, individually wrapped healthy snacks, individually wrapped tea bags: Organic Green Tea, Tummy Tea, Relaxing Teas, Sturdy, Slow Close, Elongated Toilet Seat.