The economic news continues to go from bad to really bad. In spite of some happy talk when the markets rise a bit, there is no doubt the fundamentals are not strong and we may not be looking at recovery this year. If you have not already done so, the time has come for you to take a look at the “other” economy. This is the place where a lot of transactions take place that wall street will never calculate into the GDP numbers although, for a lot of families, it is the economy that puts food on the table. Let me give you an example.

Bruce lent some sap buckets to a neighbor who wanted to boil some sap with his kids. The neighbor found some more buckets on Craig’s list and not only returned the original buckets but gave us another 15 or so. Bruce then brought over the little wood stove we picked up in the fall from a different neighbor who was not using it. Now our first neighbor had a way to boil outside. He and Bruce have begun to talk about a small sugar house and sharing equipment. Earlier in the day I picked up my daughter’s birthday cake from the Creamery. They gave her the cake because she drops by the store 2 or 3 days a week to wash dishes, sweep floors, bus tables and generally help out. She started doing this when she was home schooled as part of a vocational curriculum. She continued after she returned to school because she loved the work and knew she was a valuable part of the team. I needed someone to walk me through some computer stuff and a friend spent an hour of her valuable time helping out. Last night yet another friend stopped by to borrow the key to the church. We have set up a couple of donated sewing machines there and people use the space to sew reusable shopping bags that are donated to local businesses. I gave some of Bruce’s honey to a friend who was needing to get rid of some eggs. Happy to oblige. No money changed hands during any of these transactions (Oops-not true. We paid for the little stove, but not much.)

Do you have a skill? Is there something you can do well and with some word-of-mouth advertising turn into a business. If you sew, maybe you could repair clothing. Do you have a green thumb or a way with animals? Can you tutor or give classes in something?

It is hard to know exactly sometimes, where the informal economy ends and being a good neighbor begins. Not everything should be about what you are likely to get out of it. If I bring soup to sick neighbor, I am not keeping track of what is “owed me”. I just know that when I was laid up this winter, a lot of meals appeared on my counter. When a friend gave me a bushel of tomatoes, I don’t think she expected to be rewarded with a couple of quarts of sauce (but of course she was!). Shared garden produce and child care and the proverbial cup of sugar are what makes the world go round. Lets, hope the feds never find a way to tax being a good neighbor.