In our current detached stage of relationships, isn’t it uplifting when we see reciprocity practiced on an individual basis, sometimes even a community level? In our neighborhood, we have a teen football player that takes the newspapers from the driveways on his street up to the front porch each Sunday. No one asked him to do it and he did not expect any compensation or reward for it. It just started one morning and has been in continuance now for a full year. As an act of thank you, all of us that receive this special service occasionally leave coupons in his mailbox for the Sports Authority, the Athletic House, or the Champion Outlet Store so that he can purchase sports gear at some discount, our return act of reciprocity. What is reciprocity?

Reciprocity is the act of creating, maintaining, or augmenting social relationships as well as satisfying the material needs of someone who may have necessities beyond their current means. It can be the exchange of objects without the use of money or any financial medium of trade. It can take the form of sharing, support, assistance, or bartering without future obligation from either side.

Spontaneous reciprocity is often referred to as ‘random acts of kindness’. This phrase “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” was coined by the peace activist Anne Herbert. She stated that she wrote it on a placemat at a restaurant, 1982, in Sausalito. However you view unprompted reciprocity, allow yourself to look for opportunities where you have a chance to lighten someone’s day, even by giving someone the 23 cents in change they need at the grocery checkout. You may even find that you feel connected again to the great harmonies in humanity. Let yourself practice the acts of kindness with those you love this season.

When you think you could practice a little more reciprocity, ask yourself:
• What pleasure is fulfilled for you personally by ‘being in service’ to an individual, a company, or a community?
• How can you give yourself permission to be suddenly reciprocal even if doesn’t follow the norm of your previous family or communities’ loyalties?
• What do you believe the association is between reciprocity and family or friendships? If these relationships are ideally those in which everyone is connected by mutual generosity, can you spread your reciprocity throughout another community or with a stranger?
• What deed could you perform that would greatly benefit someone, even if they never knew it was your doing?
• What’s a category of work you’d enjoy doing so much you’d do it for free, as a volunteer, if it could make a real difference in the quality of life?
• How many ways can you demonstrate appreciation of others in your professional department or division with spontaneous deeds of reciprocity?

The Art of Reciprocity