[Note: I originally published this piece on the ABCD in Action website.]
“There is one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life -reciprocity.”Confucius
In the world of community-building there may be no concept more important than reciprocity. The acknowledgement of mutual dependence is at the core of a healthy society. Social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt calls it, “the basic currency of social life.”
I realize that anthropologists, and economists have their own definitions, so I want to be clear. I am not defining reciprocity simply as some sort of exchange marketplace. I’m talking about reciprocity as the recognition of the fundamental humanity and value of every member of the community, and the recognition of the interdependence of each community member.
Recognition of mutual benefit is important. You see it demonstrated all the time in thriving communities. People with no school-aged children will vote in favor of school referendums because they understand the value of educating youth. People shop at farmer’s markets, and locally-owned businesses because it sustains community economic development.
A sense of reciprocity is also expressed through volunteerism. According to The Corporation for National & Community Service, one out of four American’s volunteer, two out of three Americans help their neighbor (informal volunteering). These volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to a charity. To be reciprocal is to look at the world around you through a community lens.
- The place where trust resides;
- A key to belonging;
- A contributor to one’s sense of place;
- Generosity of spirit;
- The enemy of selfishness; and
- A condition that allows each person’s gifts, skills, and talents to be shared and celebrated.