PRESENZA - The Ties that Bind

The Ties that Bind
Photo: Steven Darby, CMC CD2004-1169 D2004-18562

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 giving of oneself and one's time is a part of everyday life. Through mutual aid, bonds 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 individual and collective 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 well-being depends on everyone else's, just as giving and receiving are inseparable.