Easter eggs and sustainable communities

As our cities have grown larger, we have worked hard to distance ourselves from one another — compartmentalizing our lives through fences, apartment blocks and gridlocked cars. Even as we are in increasingly close physical proximity, we have grown more suspicious of each other. We isolate ourselves, not getting to know our neighbors, hoarding our resources and supplies for our own use, telling ourselves we definitely don’t need anyone else to get by.

Natural disasters and severe economic downturns have proven otherwise. And so has a family farm celebrating Easter in Western Oregon.

Yesterday, some friends stopped at a local family farm on their way back from a day at the Oregon Coast. The farm was hosting a free Easter egg hunt, with prizes given to whoever found eggs marked with special symbols. My friends’ kids had a blast — and brought home several dozen colored eggs. For free.

When two dozen of these eggs were passed along to us, my boyfriend was skeptical. Free eggs from a random family farm, given away by people he’s never met? Why would they just give away so many eggs? Might they be poisoned, or just plain bad?

“How much trust do you put in your fellow human beings?” he asked as he gazed down into the bag.

“Quite a lot, actually.” I reached into the bag, pulled out a teal-colored egg and peeled off its shell. I offered some to Mike, but he declined.

“You go ahead,” he said. “I’ll just wait and see if you die overnight.”

Poisoned Easter eggs would have been a particularly heinous — and stupid — way to prey on small children, and until Mike shared his suspicion, it hadn’t even occurred to me to be wary of farmers hosting free holiday fun for their neighbors and anyone else who happened by. Why not just believe the best possible explanation, rather than the worst?

(I wouldn’t have given these eggs to my children to eat without testing/inspecting them myself first, however.)

Nearly twenty-four hours later, I’m still here. No ill effects from the free eggs. I’ve used the remaining dyed eggs to make a very colorful Easter egg salad (which Mike did in fact eat).

The Golden Rule teaches us to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. This same founding principle exists at the heart of many religious traditions — Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Wicca and more — and is (or should be) the very cornerstone of any organized society. We need each other if any of this — our jobs, our daily lives, survival in general — is going to work.

The goodwill generated from a free egg hunt may well bring in some new business for the farm. Maybe that was the motive; I have no idea. But the neighborliness born of these celebratory and other acts of generosity contribute to a more cohesive, interdependent, trusting — and ultimately sustainable — community.

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