Growing Time By Giving Time with Alida Miranda-Wolff

Where does the care you give someone go after you give it?

There are many angles from which to consider care work or community care, but one strikingly apt approach is “through the lens of cultivation”. It turns out, plants and gardening have a lot in common with care work.

“Saving Time” by growing and giving time

The author Jenny Odell illustrates this cultivation analogy in her book Saving Time, where she shares an experience with a gardening neighbor. 

Not a gardener herself, Odell politely refuses the neighbor’s offer of freshly harvested lettuce. The neighbor, however, explains: if she didn’t remove and make use of the outer leaves of the lettuce plant, the inner leaves would never develop, and the season’s harvest would be greatly reduced. The same is true of many plants we grow.

Society has a tendency to look at care work and the time it takes much like a novice gardener might assume lettuce has a single opportunity for harvest: once it’s gone, it’s gone. 

However, traditional gardening practices show us something equally applicable to community care: “to keep growing, you have to give some of what you grow away.”

Seeking win-win solutions in care work

Odell stresses that we need to stop thinking of care interactions as zero-sum games, where the only possible outcome is one person wins (the person receiving care) and one person loses (the person giving care). 

It’s no wonder we tend to see it this way: our entire economy relies on a scarcity mindset and the individualness of every exchange.

One reason we are so unwilling to give care freely is that we often see giving away the time it takes to care for others as losing time. But “is time truly a fixed and finite and exhaustible resource?” Thinking of time in a non-linear way calls this modern concept into question.

Celebrating the time our ancestors gave to us

Imagine the time it would take to garden if no one had ever gardened before. That’s hard to picture when we have centuries of resources at our fingertips, enabling us to easily learn all we need to know in seconds. That information is time our ancestors gave that we now don’t have to “spend”.

So much of our time is saved because someone else gave theirs at an earlier date, whether that was a century, a year, or fifteen minutes ago. If we see this “saved” time and understand that our “spent” time is being given for future benefit, time becomes infinite and inexhaustible. 

Listen to this minisode of the Care Work podcast, as host Alida Miranda-Wolff explores the connection between growing plants and growing time, and the extra bounty that can be had when we give away what we grow. Be sure to listen in as Alida plants a seed with this thought-provoking episode.

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