July 12, 2009

Please Don't Insult Me

I come from a very different culture than the one in which I'm living now. I was born and raised on a farm in West Tennessee and I now live in the Seattle metro area. Although I live in a one-horse rural town, the people here are nothing like those in the South.

Other than the usual differences (people here are less friendly, less open and less hospitable), the main thing that bugs me is when someone offers to pay me for doing something nice. It's apparently inconceivable that I could offer to help, or give a pint of homemade jam, or pick up something at the co-op - with no expectation of payment.

Take my neighbors, for example. One couple is so horribly suspicious of my motives that I've now quit offering them things. This spring I started squash plants from seed and had a lot more plants than I could use, so I offered them some. First I was asked how much I wanted for them; when I refused payment I could tell they were wondering what I would expect from them in return. Suspicion was clearly written on their faces. They apparently thought it over and/or talked it out, though, because they came over later and got the squash plants. And their attitude stunk - they came and got the plants and didn't even say thank you.

Then there are my other neighbors, to whom I'm a lot closer. I've almost broken them of trying to pay me for things - but not quite. And they're starting to accept our offers of help and of "stuff", like reclaimed lumber we don't particularly have any plans for. Growing up on a farm taught me to take things when you find them, so we have lumber and plywood and stuff that is just sitting around waiting for our next project to be conceived. In the meantime, though, if our neighbors need something they're welcome to it. That's just how I was raised.

I did have to have a talk with her, though - I reassured her that I was only being nice. That I didn't want anything in return, and I wasn't storing up favors so I could ask for something later. (I can talk more freely with her than with the suspicious ones.) Now that we've become friends she and her husband are more willing to accept help, "stuff" and/or goodies. Plus, they're learning to offer things to us as well. It's win-win for everybody.

See, that's the way it's done where I come from. Plus, it makes me feel good to help out or to give something someone can use. So please, people, don't insult me by offering to pay or being suspicious of my motives. Isn't it possible that I'm just a nice person? And couldn't that be true of others as well?

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