When we moved to Chapel Hill just short of two years ago (!) we brought very little with us. Marcos went to his German class one day that first semester, and the students were learning the vocabulary "Ich habe..." (I have...). The exercise was to go through a list of items, and converse in German about the things people owned. When he came home, he laughingly reported that we had about one thing on the entire list. No car. No I-pod. No bike. No furniture. (At that time) no job. Pretty much, no-thing.
That first year or so we received a lot of rides, dinner invitations, and we adopted pieces of furniture from generous new friends. We felt so grateful for the community that gathered around us, most immediately from our church, and then as we came to know more people, from the university and our work places.
Now it's a few years later and although we are far from wealthy, we have a running car, furniture to sit on, and Marcos has a job. These past few weeks we've had the chance to give rides to the airport, pick up stranded friends in Durham, answer calls for last-minute babysitting, and we are happy that people feel comfortable calling on us. We say yes if we're willing, and no if we're busy or unable. No money is exchanged for service, and there is an understanding in our community that whoever can does, and whoever can't will later.
I like to imagine that there is a great universal pool of generosity, and at different chapters of our lives, we give and we take as needed. Most of what Marcos and I received years ago (and continue to receive) in generosity and favors did not come from the same people we give to now, and I am okay with that. Won't the universal tab be settled by the kindness that is perpetuated by the people we serve, in the same way that we try to perpetuate the kindness that has been shown to us?