An Ode To The Give And Take

by Alison Gerber


It’s hard for me to talk about factory-made clothing alternatives and not talk about this humble abode, the building you see pictured above. It seems pretty shoddy from the outside, but it really is one of the greatest places on earth.

This building is what’s known around these parts as the “Give and Take”. What was once our graduate school’s raquet-ball 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. It has made the Christmas present pile more mountainous, and left the wallet a little more full. It’s what I call “God’s deposit box”. It’s opening hours are probably also the only time you will see me running up a hill.

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 I’ve cleaned out of my closet and home. May they bring the delight to one of my neighbors that my neighbor’s discarded bits and bobs have brought to me.

(This article is edited and reposted from its original, also written by me, found here. Photograph my own.)