The sharing economy

A friend of mine, Gigi, commented a few nights ago and it got me thinking a lot about how I found myself in a sharing economy accidentally. I shared my chocolates from my Christmas package with her. She said it made her feel so good that people were always sharing things with her on the ship. It felt different here than it did at home.

I didn’t think much of her comment because I felt the same way. When people offer their belongings it feels great and, depending on the item, so humbling at the same time. It happens all the time for me so I’m familiar with the feeling. What was new to me was the realization that I experienced the fruit of the sharing economy almost every day of the week and I hadn’t even noticed!

I just needed to look around and take notice. My British neighbors have invited us over after brewing a whole pot of quality coffee for the two of them. My Dutch neighbors have lent me clothing for wardrobe emergencies. Even days when no one in my small group has planned to bring a snack, we end up with Canadian loose leaf tea brewed fresh that we can all try. This was all spontaneous and birthed from generosity and a desire to connect.

The stories could go on. Ingredients, books, foods, even mail. It all gets shared. I’ve given a bra to a friend that lost her luggage. That may be taking it too far, but it was practically new and really cute. I have no shame. I’ve gotten several letters and Christmas cards read to me. Not my own letters, but letters from strangers! We live on a ship thousands of miles away from home so we share all types of things, including news from loved ones, with our ship family.

share the wealth

Ivanna Figueroa |Provocative Joy | How to create a culture of generosity, sharing economy, the value of sharing with friends | Andre Primus TEDx Flour City Flower City RocShare
I picked up a bright floral garland and a bold print scarf at the Africa Mercy Boutique. Have you noticed I fancy purple?

Today I rode a bike for the first time in months because one of the long-term crew bought four bikes for general use. Just sign ’em out and they’re yours for the hour. They asked for a modest donation from crew that use them heavily. That’s sharing on a slightly la
rger, more proactive scale.

There is also the ship boutique that I visit at least once a week. It’s our version of a thrift store but free, so basically way better. Departing crew drop off the extra stuff they can’t fit in their baggage. Current crew can select any 3 items for free each visit. That means free clothes, hair products, toothpaste, storage bins, shoes, magnets, books, and linens for anyone who needs.

the community we left behind

When we arrived on the Africa Mercy, we had no clue we would experience a sharing economy. We had admired and longed for a community like this from a distance in Rochester, NY. We said no to several opportunities that we really loved but had to walk away from because of bad timing.

Many of our friends were either living in community houses, buying community houses, or both! We considered buying a property ourselves. We saw the benefits of sharing things with the people you live with: the more people, the more stuff to share! We could see immeasurable value in living with other people. The way it forces people to drop their masks and be real. Less space to hide sounds terrifying, but it forces genuine relationships. And that sounded really tempting and strangely appealing.

Let me introduce you to my friend Andre. I grew up with this guy. I am honored to know him and had the chance to experience my entire life until age 17 alongside him. Even through college and young adulthood we have miraculously maintained a one-of-a-kind friendship. We shared so many conversations and confirmed: we’re both quite different, but we’re both weird and excited about what Jesus can do in today’s society. Whether it’s Rochester or Madagascar.

This is his TEDx Flour City talk!


There is a culture of generosity that I see blooming in my home city of Rochester, NY. In the video above you hear him call it the sharing economy. It’s a new (yet quite ancient) way of living life and exchanging with others that doesn’t require you to have tons of cash. Andre Primus and his wife Mabel are doing their part by founding and directing RocShare to help connect people, communities and businesses that want to see more sharing in Rochester.

Andre quotes in his TEDx talk: “The secret of a sharing economy is that when you share what you fear you have too little of, you discover that the community as a whole has enough for everyone.” This is exactly what we experience here on the Africa Mercy. I suspect it’s many more than just my friend Gigi and me. We feel so lucky when someone thinks of us by sharing what’s rightfully theirs with us. Many times it completely transforms a hard day into a precious day. It transforms the way we feel about ourselves. Someone has considered us, taken provisions for us. “When you live in a culture of generosity, you know you can rely on the generosity of others.”

You see, the only reason I even thought to share my holiday chocolates was because I have been on the receiving end so many times. I knew I didn’t need a whole bag of chocolates to hoard. I knew it would make me happy to see other people enjoying it with me, and I knew that God would provide for me down the line.

Love others as you love yourself. It’s the basis of the sharing economy. It doesn’t have to be prescribed, mandated or forced. In fact, it can’t be.

I’m so honored that I get to be part of a community like the one we experience on this ship. I’m even more grateful that I don’t have to leave these lessons behind, I can take the gift of sharing with me to every city and community I come across.

Do you find yourself more grateful for gifts you’re expecting, or gifts that surprise you with no occasion?
What comes to mind when you think of something you already have and could share with a friend or coworker to make their day?
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Ivanna Figueroa |Provocative Joy | How to create a culture of generosity, sharing economy, the value of sharing with friends | Andre Primus TEDx Flour City Flower City RocShare

5 comments on “Sharing: How to Cultivate a Culture of Generosity”

  1. It's exciting that that culture has been cultivated on the Africa Mercy! Someday I hope that it becomes the norm here in Rochester to have access to a community like that. When you come back I hope you can bring that sense of community with you!

    • Buffalo is definitely around the corner. We are neighbors. I love Buffalo actually. I went with a friend last summer while she was apartment hunting and was very pleasantly surprised with how much I loved Buffalo. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Sharing is caring~ It is already part of my personality to share what I have and what I know. I’m actually a pretty talkative person – in a good way. I am a Chinese living in the Philippines and I love sharing the Chinese culture and how much it differs from the Filipino culture. I also get to learn new things since people share back when you share something. 🙂

    • Sharing what you know is a wonderful thing! I bet you make friends easily because of how open you are.

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