Emotional Currency

Your relationship to money

Small Human Exchanges

Simple monetary transactions can remind us we are human.

As is the custom in Santa Fe, a man is selling Sunday newspapers on the meridian of a main street. He looks to be around 75 years old. I drive past him, stop at the red light, then decide to back up and buy a paper from him. Being a visitor in town, I ask how much the paper is and hand him the $1.25 price. He says, "Have a happy day," and we smile warmly at each other. I go on my way, crossing into the intersection.

A simple transaction, yet somehow touching to me. In the midst of what for this vendor is probably a long morning standing in the New Mexican heat with cars passing, he and I made a human connection. The exchange was money well spent for me, as the value of his greeting exceeded the value of the newspaper.

Even the smallest exchanges can be full of feeling. Value is added when the monetary exchange brings a real, human exchange as well. Some of us mourn the loss of these small interactions. A friend told me how, going to the movies recently, she and her friend were disappointed to be presented with an automated kiosk outside the theater rather than buying their tickets from a person at a window. That programmed, robotic, and inhuman exchange diminished the total experience of going to the movies.

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On the economic side of the transaction I can't help but wonder how much my newpaper vendor can make. Perhaps a quarter on each paper? And I wonder if he has had to buy them from the newspaper publisher, risking losing money if he doesn't sell them all. So that small exchange brought not only human connection, but human concern as well. I was even grateful for the worry about another person that it aroused in me.

Think for a moment about the interactions that come with the purchases you make. Although some people prefer the so-called convenience and anonymity of Amazon or the one-stop shopping of Costco or Sam's Club, I far prefer to support-and interact with-ordinary people attempting to stay in business and make a living, be it on the meridian of a road or in a shop on Main Street. That human interaction, whether pleasant or edgy, makes me feel all the more human.

 

 

Kate Levinson, Ph.D., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Oakland, California. She is the author of Emotional Currency: A Woman's Guide to Building a Healt more...

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