We teach our children to share from a young age. Just this morning I was sat in a toddler play group where we sang a song about taking turns! But it seems like we normally sort of grow out of sharing… Why?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week because over the weekend we borrowed a car from a lovely couple at church. We had been invited to gather with a group of good friends at one of their houses in Bradford – to stop over a night and get some quick but quality time in. We really wanted to go but couldn’t see a way the journey would work: with the combination of awkward trains and young children, not leaving until 3:30pm on Friday would put a difficult journey right in the tiredness danger zone (which for child 2 [and me] means grumpiness and not being our best selves). Just relying on public transport would mean we couldn’t go. We needed some help.

I remembered an offer from the lovely couple at church: when we first went car free they said that we could borrow their car if we needed to. We weren’t sure at first about borrowing a car – was this a cop-out on our new car free family life? We really want to press into car free living as much as possible. But having looked at the train times again we decided it was the only way to do this trip, and that it would be worth it. (In carbon footprint terms a small car with all the seats filled can actually be as efficient as train travel, sometimes even more efficient – see How Bad are Bananas).

The lovely couple were true to their word and so kind and helpful about it – sorting out putting me on their insurance and getting everything ready. Arranging to pick the car up took a few messages – at first they were out of town, then I was busy with the kids, but eventually we sorted it. As I walked down to their house I realised that this was the first time I had been round (we haven’t lived here for long, and with covid restrictions there hadn’t been opportunity). We were getting to know one another better and deepening our relationship, as well as lending and borrowing a vehicle. A quick introduction to the idiosyncrasies of this car later and I was on the road… It felt quite odd. And when did petrol start costing £1.50 a litre?!

The trip itself was great. We had so much fun, and having the car meant that we were able to make good time on the Friday evening (arriving before tiredness switched child 2 into manic mode) and didn’t leave until after tea on Saturday – kids in pyjamas, quiet and peaceful journey home. It was very convenient (more thoughts on convenience coming soon), and we were really grateful.

The act of sharing wasn’t quite as convenient (compared to owning a vehicle that lives outside the house!) – getting me added to their insurance, picking up the car, learning a new car, being very aware while driving that the vehicle didn’t belong to me (and feeling a bit nervous about that – especially when the snow started falling!), and then working out how to drop the car back with all the rest of a busy Sunday going on. It wasn’t impossible by any stretch, but it was inconvenient at times. But beyond convenience or inconvenience, in the quiet moments on the drive home I was struck by how sharing just feels better than owning.

I thought about how sharing is different to giving. If I give you something then it was mine, but now it is yours. This can be good – generosity is a virtue, and sometimes this is what is needed – but it means that the interaction can be quite short, and sometimes at a distance. Giving can create and build up relationships, but it can also be done at arms length – it doesn’t build community. But sharing – this is where we sort of both hold a thing at once – it isn’t mine, but it isn’t just yours. We both have a part of this, and so we are in direct relationship. I wonder if perhaps sharing is more oikos than giving…? It is certainly more connected, and a fairer way to handle limited resources.

But in some ways sharing is more costly than giving. Obviously in financial terms it is more costly to give someone your car than it is to share it with them! But our lives are made up of much more than money. Sharing requires emotional investment (ongoing), it calls us to work on a relationship and bear with one another, it can lead to some complication and awkwardness – how do we share costs, etc? It can often save both parties money, and when done well means that both parties gain deeper relationship and connectedness, but to work well this is going to take more work.

For our household there is a faith connection here too. I had a very oikos conversation today with a local community work friend, in which he observed that sharing is quite relevant to Christian faith – I agreed, it’s kind of central! There is an assumption in the Bible that the best way to be human is to be in caring community – to watch out for each other, to give to those who are in need, and to make space with our resources. A beautiful instance of this is the ancient law of ‘gleaning’ – in a book of laws called Leviticus (chapter 19 verse 9-10) you can find this:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

The field and its crops belong to the individual, but God commands that they leave space at the edges for others in need. Sharing – with other people, and also presumably with the birds and wild animals. This is about recognising that the things I have are all a gift from God – gratitude leads me to generosity, and peaceful trust leads me to open sharing. The first Christians in the months and years after the death and resurrection of Jesus clicked into this as a way of life: the book of Acts says that (among other things), “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”  (Acts chapter 2, verse 44-45). It clearly isn’t the case that this radical way of living is exactly how every church is today, but there are plenty of people who carry this DNA. I have seen plenty of examples of quiet faithfulness in this kind of sharing (with me and with others), and I’m sure that there are many more that are never seen – humble, gracious, kind, open handed living. Oikos in action.

I wonder what else our household could share with others? Or what things we could do without owning so that we can share with our friends and neighbours instead… I would love to be part of a library of things but there isn’t one nearby. Perhaps we could start one?

Child 1 has been sitting with me while I write this. I asked what she thinks about sharing. She says…

Sharing is a good way to make new friends and to get along.

From the mouths of babes.

Published by oikoslife

I am married, father of 2 young children (2014 and 2017), pioneering priest in the Church of England, surfer, climate activist and much more. Born in Yorkshire, and currently living on the Yorkshire Coast. Doing my best to live in good connection with God, self, neighbour and creation - working it out as I go.

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