This past weekend, I was pleased to attend the worldwide reunion of Relational Tithe, a group that our family has belonged to for several years now. It is an ongoing experiment in relational giving where we pool 10% of our income, then give it away through relational connections–no charities, no organizations, and no proxies. Just people-to-people. We mostly interact via email, so it’s always nice to get together in the same time and space to renew old friendships, start new ones, and to generally remember why we’re doing this in the first place. Plus, we eat good food, stay up late listening to one another, chase each other’s kids around, and pick each other’s brains about all manner of provocative stuff. It’s a remarkable group of people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world, and it’s a privilege to call them ‘friends’.
The gathering was in the suburbs of Philadelphia, so several folks made the drive to a community party in Camden, NJ that is hosted by Sacred Heart Church. Which is a kind of upending of the normal way of life in Camden, a place where desperate poverty mixes with industrial waste and hopelessness to cast a permanent shadow. Truly, this is a place abandoned by the Empire. But on this day, the whole area is transformed by a kind of old-fashioned block party, complete with street food, art displays, live music, t-shirts, neighbors talking, pony rides, garden tours, and face-painting for the kids. After showing up and getting the lay of the land, I headed toward the food tent to get some water and a juice box for The Girlie, whereupon I learned that I first needed to buy a ticket to exchange for food. So off I went to the ticket booth, where I inquired of the kind man, “So is this a normal rate of exchange?” He affirmed that it was, so I handed over a fiver and received twenty 25-cent tickets in return.
But when I went back to the food tent, I saw the fine print: everything cost only 1 ticket. Bottles of water, sodas, juice boxes, and cupcakes were just one ticket. Plus pieces of pizza, meatball sandwiches, rice and bean platters, and a whole bunch of other stuff, all for only one ticket. So I was suddenly feeling like a sailor on leave walking around with a few hundred bucks in my pocket. “A round of face-painting for all of my friends!”
I’m still wondering at the intent of this. I suppose the organizers could just give the food away, but that’s not nearly as much fun, nor nearly as enobling. Or they could simply exchange normal paper bills and coins for food at this ridiculously reduced rate, but that would be too much like real life, or a sale at the market. Somehow, in getting rid of the green stuff in favor of blue tickets, we were all welcomed into a little celebration of Jubilee. It was a wonderful place, full of hope and imagination.