The grand theft and how gift-economy backed me up

A few weeks back life hit me hard with one of these shocking moments: I came home early in the morning to pack my things for a workshop that I was going to give later that day. I had already prepared my materials, including camera and laptop stacked nicely in the middle of the room. But when I opened my door, there was nothing there. I started searching every corner of my room, asking all my flatmates if they borrowed my stuff without asking, torturing my mind on what had gone wrong, until I came to the conclusion – someone broke into our apartment and found his way into my room, taking the most expensive things that laid in plain sight. Actually, the most expensive things that I owned. No traces of a break-in, insurance won’t cover the costs.

Unfortunately these were also my working tools. As a graphic designer and web programmer I would not even be able to earn any money straight away to cover the loss. And what hurt me most: the data. Luckily I made a backup of the most important data the other day, but there was a hard-drive in the camera bag with backups from all my project data and a lot of still full memory cards that I did not copy. Including uncut footage of 3 years traveling through gift-economy communities with I already started a documentary of 30 minutes, but there was a lot more to cut. Interviews with really inspiring people that live a life in the gift-economy since many years.
Also I was investing a lot of time and money for the idea of gift-economy since some years now.. After living moneyless for 6 months, I worked hard and saved all my money to buy a camera, so I could document these pioneers of change that I met on my travels.

Of course I had these thoughts: Why me? What did I do wrong? Did I not share enough? How can I stay in the spirit of giving unconditionally? – A tough challenge.

As you might remember, I was on the way to a workshop, so I had to focus my energy on that. I borrowed laptop and camera from my girlfriend and gave a surprisingly great workshop for the next 4 days in sociocracy 3.0, again in the spirit of gift-economy! I got very good feedback, some donations and support from the participants. Some of them wrote to their friends who had old laptops to give away. In the picture above you can see how the participants are hurrahing me.

As I met a lot of people on my gifting paths and I did a lot of favors and volunteer work for a lot of people, I was sure that I would get support in these times of need. After all I started a gift-network, not only virtually but from real-life relationships, so this would be the test: if it can not support me, it would not have worked.
So I wrote a facebook post, telling what has happened to me, asking for donations, laptop and a camera. Well, the feedback was amazing!

I got a really good laptop from a friend that I gave an old laptop to,  some years back. I got a camera from another friend that I did not see in years (although unfortunately it cannot film). I got two offers to use professional filming equipment whenever I need it. And I got 400€ donations from a lot of people, even from some people that I never met in person or people that I don’t even know!

It was so good to feel this support from so many people, old and new friends, supporters in spirit, a big social network that from the illusion of connectedness on facebook, suddenly came real into my life. I felt so grateful and inspired that I became very generous: I gave money to street musicians and beggars, I invited friends for coffees, beers and dinner. I bought presents and thought about what I could give back to the world even more. This psychological effect is called reciprocity.
The amazing Vera Birkenbihl (one of my current teachers 🙂 is talking about it in this phenomenal lesson (44:24). For the first time in my life I was really able to feel its full power working on me. This effect is one of the main reasons why gift-economy works naturally. Yes, it works, I am the living proof now ☺
Even though the loss was still greater than what I got back, my feeling was the contrary. It was just one poor desperate thief, but so many generous and loving supporters. My emotions and endorphins have never been good at maths ☺

As many of my photos and films were gone I was biting my ass that I did not upload more data, not only as a backup, but also to share with other people. It was the stuff that I wanted to share with others, that I felt sad about losing, not so much my personal memories. Lucky enough I saved some of my flicks in other places. So from now on I want to share beautiful moments of my life with you on flickr.

I am slowly buying used things back (I never buy new electronics, because I don’t want feed the mining!) and I was able to earn some money with filming creative thinking workshops. The whole story costed me a few weeks of my life in the end:  setting up new computers, repairing computers of friends, watching stuff on ebay, selling things… So it also brought new energies, more support, new updates and new motivation! Now I am back and I want to give even more!

Thank you to all my past and future supporters, it is really you who make me what I am becoming, every day ☺
If you feel inspired to become one of them, here is my paypal and my bankaccount:

Arne Bollinger

Please feel free to share your comments below and if you have a similar story to share, please contact me, so we can spread the word of these stories together. We believe that these stories could one day could become the reality that we live in. The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

Thank you for your time and attention,

happy giving!