John and his children offer to help their elderly neighbour prune
the trees in his garden. Matilda assists a friend who has just had a
baby. Luke drives the neighbourhood children to school. This
of oneself and one's time is a part of everyday life. Through mutual
are created, feelings are expressed, and individuals interact at a
level that goes far beyond the basic exchange of goods and services.
Without these gestures, life would not be liveable. Strangely
enough, our society attaches so little importance to them, compared
to more formal types of exchange - paid labour and consumption - where
our relationship to one another is often only a means to an end and is
governed by individual interests.
Italian immigrants grew up in rural societies where the support of
family members, friends and neighbours led work parties, mutual aid
and the exchange of essential services. The value that that immigrant
generation still attaches to such exchanges even today reminds us that
interests are not always mutually exclusive, that they are inseparable,
and it is wrong to think that individual interests are more important
than those of the group. That generation believes each person's
on everyone else's, just as giving and receiving are inseparable.