Opinion

Can exchange lead to robbery? | Nandell Palmer

Exchange is no robbery. This is the first time I’m using that phrase in 15 years since it nearly got me in trouble.

I recall using those words when exchanging a gift I bought for my wife at a store near the Empire State Building in New York City just days after Christmas.

“What did you say about robbery?” the store manager asked, fidgeting. Try as I might to explain the meaning of the proverb, I was not making any headway. Her not being amused by my parable, I swore that at any moment’s notice, a phalanx of New York’s finest would escort me to the nearest precinct.

The adage got stirred up in me again recently. I felt its true meaning permeating my being. I saw reciprocity at its best where one would least expect to find it. Now, I will forever say: exchange, indeed, is no robbery.

At a posh condo, the residents came up with a unique idea. Instead of dumping books, small appliances, electronics and cookware, a section of the spacious laundry room is declared a “swap shop.” Run on a merit system, residents placed the swapped items on neat rows of shelves. If a person sees something that he likes, he can cart it away as long as he replaces it with some other item of value for the next recipient.

For example, an attorney and his teacher wife wanted to downsize on some of their collections, and they did so by bringing their “stuff” to the swap shop.

I saw firsthand a brand-new pot set, costing upward of $600, which the couple brought to the area. It didn’t take long to find a new home. I wonder where those pots would go had it not been for this outlet, the city dump.

Other items on the shelves included portable heaters, antique lamps, mechanic tool kits, footballs, tennis rackets, vegetable steamers, rice cookers, wine glasses, canned food, pillow cases and sheet sets.

Wherever that idea originated from, I love it. The condo folk, no doubt, copied it from somewhere. I could see this idea taking roots far and wide.

Economically, people are hurting everywhere. They are hurting in churches, synagogues, temples, schools, sporting centers, etc. Why not build a bridge to help stanch this shortfall?

Here’s hoping that many of these institutions in Federal Way will borrow that idea, creating swap shops, swap tables, swap arenas or whatever names they want to give those set-aside spots.

For swap shops to be ongoing, trustworthiness must be established from the onset. Give some people a million dollars and they would still be needy.

There are people who would want to give and expect nothing in return. Thus, in those cases, the recipients of those swapped goods should be based on need.

You don’t want people scouring the area every chance they get to discover the latest goodies brought by wingless angels and carting them away, leaving nothing behind.

Swap shops should be limited to small items only. They should not be convenient dumping grounds for decades-old items with nary a use to anybody.

Mattresses, refrigerators and other large items should be in notice only — namely, description of the items with contact information tucked away in an envelope like a gift certificate.

Countless generous people abound who are ready and willing to give away items for which they no longer use or have never used. But fearful of being rebuffed or judged by those who would feel singled out, prospective donors are petrified of being misunderstood.

“Do I look like I am needy or begging for alms?” one gentleman assailed another as the kind man offered to give him some clothes. “If I want something, I will ask for it. Don’t assume what I need.”

Not that people should harbor any shame in the first place if they have a need that can be met. Having a swap shop removes the shame or finger pointing from all sides. People will feel more confident taking or giving things of their own volition.

What can you swap today? Think about it!

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