Life Saving Philosophy

How mental vigor and newfound clarity can change how we view the world and our place in it

Bring Back Bartering

Avoiding monetary exchange by trading skills and talents.

Child philosophers marvel at the power of “pieces of paper with old men on them.” When we talk about the origins of money, these "thin, crumbly sheets"  merely serving as tangible guarantees of future payment for goods and services, children as well as adults ponder a return to the practice of bartering: "I’ll do this for you if you do that for me and we’ll call it even." How about trading talents and bypassing those pieces of paper altogether whenever possible? Could this not only help us economically but socially as well? Here are some examples of bartering which I’ve seen recently that cool wallets and warm hearts:

A single dad with two kids cleans gutters in exchange for an old computer that he can tinker with for their eventual use. A CPA offers essential, last-minute help and leaves relieved taxpayers with a delicious meal prepared for his family's Sunday supper. Baseball tickets are paid for with a pre-game picnic. Fence repair buys tutoring in grammar for a struggling daughter. A handyman lives rent-free for a month’s worth of household improvements. The graduation speaker earns use of the school building for an educational event. When a dog sniffs a plumber's lost wallet, he says thanks by fixing a leaky hose, promising to return if problems appear. An oil change covers the cost of window washing. Pruning shrubs and mowing grass seems a small price to pay for help revising a résumé for the unexpected job search.

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For decades I’ve swapped tennis lessons for countless things I can’t do: a lesson for a stitched garment; another time on the court traded for a child’s piano lesson; a few balls hit and a lamp rewired; I can’t imagine the number of forehands and backhands that won desperately needed computer help!

The great byproduct of such old-fashioned bartering is connecting with others, making conversation and cementing friendships. What do you think? What can you offer? What reciprocal talents lie untapped in you and your friends and family?

Try it soon. Wallets close. Fresh air blows.



Marietta McCarty is the author of Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy With Kids and How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most.


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