Alison's Cure: An Ode to the Give and Take

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It might be really hard to believe it, but this, in my opinion, is the greatest place on earth.

This building is what's known around these parts as the "Give and Take". What was once our graduate school's raquetball court, it is now the home for anything anybody on campus has "outboxed" from their home. Clothes, toys, bedding, home decor, jars of baby food, packets of diapers that are no longer the correct size…everything is in this place. Once I found a remnant of 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fabric inside there. Everything.

The rules are simple:

  1. Drop off what you don't want or are no longer using.
  2. Take whatever you'd like.

It's for everyone who lives on campus. There's no cost. There's no requirement like "bring three things in order to take three things." You'd think, with everything free, the place would be empty, but it's not! In fact, it's the opposite. People seem to love the giving part more than the taking part. That's incredible to me, it's like some kind of graduate-school utopia. The insides of this shoddy old building are just bulging with goodies.

There have been so many times the Give and Take has saved me. When we first moved here from overseas, we had nothing. The Give and Take provided our first dishes, cups and cutlery. It meant we could eat off something. The day we needed so many more towels than the four we owned to mop up the pool of water that had somehow collected inside our 20-year-old car - The Give and Take saved the day again. The Give and Take has been the source of Halloween costumes, surprise gifts, new outfits for a Saturday night date. Once I ordered a blue woollen cape online from American Apparel, only to be told that afternoon by a sales rep that it was actually out of stock. The next day I visited the Give and Take…and lo and behold! I came home with a blue woollen cape!

I wish everywhere in the world could have a Give and Take like mine. A place where everything was recycled and everything was free. Wouldn't that be a lovely dream? In the meantime, I offer to the Give and Take my humble thanks: by means of all the goodies in my outbox from the last month - toys, books, clothes, and so on. May they bring the delight to one of my neighbors that my neighbor's discarded bits and bobs have brought to me.

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(Image credits: Alison Gerber)