Starting the first day of college, we were all broke. When friends came over to study at our modest abodes and were, as college students perpetually find themselves, hungry, we each asked ourselves, â€œWhy share what little I have?â€ However some of us chose to share and some of us did not. My best friend Emily Kate Nathan (who I will refer to henceforth as â€œEmilyâ€ so as to conceal her identity) is one of the most affectionate, ebullient, and intelligent people I know and I love her unconditionally. That being said, I do not condone or encourage the following behavior: Emily was raised wearing a wardrobe bought with what her mom referred to as â€œfunny money.â€ Here is how it worked: her mother went to thrift stores and bought items with brand names. Then she went to the stores from which they came and returned them, and with no receipt, she often had to make a scene until the poor sales associate succumbed. Emily thus filled her closet with name brands â€œpurchasedâ€ with store credit.
I, being culturally super-Jewish, inherited conflicting proclivities: I was, on the one hand, cunning in my attempts to economize, but on the other hand, my guilty conscience forbade stealing. On the one hand, I was tempted to hoard my food, but on the other hand, I felt the need to feed those around me. Emily, being Jewish mainly in fro and freckles, didn’t inherit the â€œother hand.â€ I don’t think she ever gave me anything without me asking. I managed to snag a few almonds from her cupboard over the course of four years, but she gave them grudgingly and I pretty much had to pry them out of her hands. But the situation wasn’t all bad. By comparing myself to the example she set, I became more generous with what little broke-ass stuff I had, and for that I am grateful, though clearly not indebted, to her (save for maybe 27 almonds). My point is this: Being broke pardons neither loose morals nor tight fists. When life hands you lemons, don’t ask if you can return them for store credit. Make some goddamn lemonade and then share it with your other broke friends!
So, where can you get some FREE lemons? My friend Asiya Wadud started an awesome urban harvesting project a couple years ago called Forage Oakland and it is really taking off (she graced the cover of San Francisco Magazine’s â€œBest of 2009â€ issue). When Asiya noticed that piles of fruit were rotting on the ground yards all over South Berkeley and North Oakland, she mapped the trees, contacted her neighbors, and created an online community so residents could barter, trade, gift, and redistribute their excess produce. If you don’t live in South Berkeley or North Oakland, don’t fret! Check out Forage Oakland‘s website for links to other urban harvesting projects throughout the Bay Area and beyond.