Gift Giving

For a brief time I tried to include every possible future cost in a budget. I say brief because I’m referring to a period of maybe 2 hours when I tried to write that personal budget and, finding accounting for the future to be impossible, stopped.

Still, not having reached that kind of perfection that time didn’t alter my notion of “perfection,” of including and accounting for everything.

More recently I was reading one of these books that’ll take me a year to get through, reading only a few pages too a chapter at a time and then coming back to it later, like a favorite, but rarely eaten food, when I want a nibble or a bite. The topic that happened to be before me was that of gift giving, a very relevant topic in Bulgaria.

Written there, as barely even an aside, was a simple statement saying that you should live below your means so that you can afford to give gifts freely, or in my mind, without having to have accounted and saved for them previously.

One man’s, “Duh, idiot,” is another man’s, “My God, it’s genius!”

I read this as I was waiting at the bottom of our village’s road for whatever car was to come next, returning villagers, friends of mine no doubt, from whatever errands called them out of the laze or bussle of the village that day. This means I was already planning my day, my return home based on the notion that someone would afford me a small favor, a gift, picking me up and driving me home.

When I got back I ran into a friend who, as is customary in the Villagio (my snazzy Italian-ese name for the village), promptly asked me where I had gotten lost to (a somewhat awkward translation), because we hadn’t seen each other recently. 

“I’ve been here,” I said, “except for today, I was picking up some things in the county-capital.”

“Ohhh, excellent. Do you have potatoes to eat?” She asked.

“No I fried the last ones I had a couple of days ago.”

“Oh well wait here, I’ll get you a sack (~5kilos), don’t go running off anywhere!”

And just like that she hustled, sort of, to go fetch me a bag of potatoes they had grown on their various acres around the Villagio. 

It’s already baked into their habits, yearly plans and forecasts, none of which aren’t actually conceived, discussed or written down, that they will grow “a bunch” of potatoes sell “a (smaller) bunch” and than have “a (also smaller) bunch” left over for “themselves, their family and friends and whomever else needs some.”

People here may live poor but they aren’t on the razor’s edge of anything. When it comes to planning things that are out of routine pretty much anything can derail a (always unwritten) plan, but when it comes to food, beer, brandy and wood for the winter, it would take a true cataclysm to eat up the reserves my neighbors here very commonly maintain.

It is a lesson I hope to not forget anytime soon, to live below my means, to have resources left over to give, without calculating how much or how often. So that I not only have potatoes for me, but plenty for you as well.

Thanks again Bulgaria

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