Friday, December 27, 2013

To Receive Graciously is to give power to others

In the week before Christmas I was busy buying presents. I find it a difficult time, because I do not have the imagination needed to buy truly personal and endearing presents. Then there is always someone for whom it is difficult to buy anything because they seem to have everyting. The experience reminded me of a book I read, Gifts and Strangers, by an English missionary anthropologist, Fr. Anthony Gittins, recently rewritten as Ministry at the Margins.
He analyzes missionary life from the point of view of "gift giving and receiving." He sees these as a necessary part of building relationships. Gittins builds on the theories of Marcel Mauss' seminal book, The Gift. Mauss points out that gifts are rarely free, they almost always indebt us. But that is not so terrible because these debts establish relationships. The alternative is the rich, independent person who needs and owes no one but is isolated and lonely.
Gittens points out that all of us have the obligation to give, to receive and to repay...
"Not to receive" is an unwillingness to be in a relationship. When we seem not to need others' gifts and services we can make them feel helpless and insignificant. It is like having rich friends for whom we cannot buy a present - thus, causing alienation.
Not only can people oppress others with large presents, but they can insult them by the way they receive other's gifts. "To receive graciously" is to give power to others. It allow ourselves to be indebted, to empower and liberate "the giver" in others and to open ourselves to mutual relationships.
This is not only important for missionaries but for everyone, and it is also critically important in our relationship with God. We can either give and accept gifts graciously, or we condemn ourselves to being strangers. (excerpt from Fr. Noel Connolly's article in Columban Mission Magazine Dec.2013).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black and White

I love B&W photos. I don't know why or what it is about them, but they actually produce a visceral response whenever I look at them. I love B&W movies too and prefer them over the fast paced, complicated, and CG movies of today. They feel calming to me. Black and White. Maybe that's the way I want to see the world in those terms, I don't know. But, here are some favorite photos that I took this year during our many travels.