When I was young and not yet college educated, I heard a guy use the word reciprocity in a conversation I was having with him in a bar. Something about the word snagged on my brain, and I later looked it up, happy to have a new word to chew on. At that time I didn’t know I was a writer, though I always have been a reader. And this particular word opened up something in me that I hadn’t been aware of before.
Partly, I liked the sound of the syllables clinking together: re-ci-pro-ci-ty. Such a small word to have so many movements within its structure. That fact seemed appropriate when I discovered that the origins were from Latin, moving backward and forward. The word itself seemed to do what its original meaning suggested, the sound rippling through those sound units and supporting the letters denotation.
But the dictionary meaning of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit compelled me as a young woman as much as these other elements. I realized this ability to return favors or feelings with someone else was the basis of most relationships, the foundation of community. I had stumbled onto something totally unexpected and all because this one word forced me to take it in.
That experience of first hearing reciprocity was triggered recently because my husband is going through some medical difficulties, a major trauma since he’s been so incredibly healthy all of his life, never missing teaching a class or seeing a patient (he’s also a psychoanalyst) because of illness. I’ve discovered that one hopes one’s friends will reciprocate in these circumstances, tightening the bonds of community, and it’s a tremendous disappointment when that doesn’t happen, as has been the case with a few people we considered close friends. My husband and I had been responsive to them when they went through difficult times. It’s impossible to have a functioning community without reciprocity.
I’m also seeing the word as being connected to writing as well, especially to these blog posts that many of us make and the proliferation of tweets, Facebook, and other efforts to reach out to our friends, or to make new ones. A writer, I’m hoping to find readers who will join me on my journey inward and outward as I explore through poetry, fiction, and non-fiction what it means to be human in this 21st Century. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!