Reciprocity 1

Give only to those from whom you have received. Receive only from those to whom you have given.

Ayi Kwei Armah

Two Thousand Seasons (1973)


I read Two Thousand Seasons years ago and this quote has always stuck in my mind.  In the novel, this philosophy and practice of reciprocity is credited as a seminal Pan-African belief system by the Ghanaian author, Armah.  The breaking of this practice when the Europeans arrived then plunged the African people into a period of utter devastation that will last for 2000 seasons.

This explanation of reciprocity has always spoken deeply to me because I believe in and like to count on reciprocity.  Through helping and supporting others, I believe I am building an account that I can withdraw from when I need help or support.   

The fact is that the circle of reciprocity has to start somewhere.  Someone has to give first.  Someone has to keep account or the giving.  You want to be able to go to the people you’ve given to and know that you can get back when you are in need.  You want to be able to give to people who’ve given to you when  hey are in need.

iStock000016002495XSmall.jpgReciprocity doesn’t often happen as an equal exchange or in a straight line.  Rather, it happens that you give to someone in your sphere and they return the gift to someone else within your (or a different) sphere.  The sphere might be as small as your family or as large as the world.  Generosity will be given to you, sometimes from people you don’t even know.

I often wish for straight lines.  They are neater and speedier.   It’s easier to keep account.  In my time of need, I find it difficult not to keep account when the account I thought I’d build within a certain sphere is depleted of resources.  However, this is not often how life works so I am having a renewed lesson that generosity, payback and/or support won’t always come from people you expect or even people you know, but it will come.  Your job is to be generous when called on to do so.

I have realized, however, that being generous and showing support doesn’t require one to keep giving to specific people if they’ve proven themselves non-reciprocal or appreciative. (I’m all about showing appreciation.)

I must confess, I wrote another post about support and reciprocity that was a raging, get-people-told rant.  I drafted it late lone sleepless night and sent it to my husband and asked him what he thought.  He made a good argument for my not posting it.  In fact, writing it, expressing my hurt and dismay actually dampened those feelings.  So let’s give a round of applause to Tessil for keeping me from doing the wrong thing (even though it would have felt so devilishly delicious to have posted it).

As a blog friend from Australia wrote me recently “remember to take your own advice and Believe!”

I will.  I am.

As my Mom often says,  “One monkey don’t stop no show.”




About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

Leave a Reply

One thought on “Reciprocity

  • Lisa

    So true! I’ve found that often the people you think will be there for you aren’t, but others will show up just when you need them. I really believe in karma. We don’t know how our good will come back to us, but it will come back. Happy Holidays to you Candelaria! Wishing that you get lots of good coming back to you! : )