November 13, 2015


On my second day in Indonesia, I was handed a phrase. I wasn’t quite sure how to dissect it, or whether or not it had any implications that would affect me, but after four weeks, I am beginning to understand its meaning.

We were standing in an open kitchen, wrapped in the heat of Canggu, looking across a long wooden table at a young expatriate from London. It was spoken over freshly made toast and breathed in reference to someone that we had not yet met.

The expatriate leaned back in her chair and said, “Her currency is people.”

The four words were voiced as a descriptor of a woman named Ninie, who would be housing us for the next few months.

Ninie grew up in a shared Chinese and Dutch culture and was raised in Jakarta, where she was blessed with the talents of cooking, baking, and loving by wholes, instead of halves. She is an established textile designer in Asia that has built her entire career on word of mouth and face-to-face connection. Her friends span nearly every continent and she ventures to new countries every few months. She lives in a villa that acts as a shelter to stray travelers, and earnestly extends the term “family” to all who enter. This is our temporary home.

We have been staying at her villa for just over a month, and I have not only been exposed to some of the best meals of my life, but to the evidence that honest, open, generous people have the ability to change the world. We are taught this in our innocent years, believing that kindness has the ability to shape everything around us—seeing smiles as a sort of superpower, and sharing as one of life’s greatest joys. It is sincere, it is simple, and it is beautiful. This belief is commonly left at the door as we are ushered into the “real world,” and we learn to see kindness as a catch. I say this not for the sake of ranting, but for the reminder that these are rare things to find in anyone past the age of 4. When you encounter them in the hard reality that we have grown accustomed to, it is difficult not to be moved.

Ninie has chosen to step beyond the familiar face of generosity and rest in this place of genuine giving. She chooses this every single day. She views everything that she has earned as something to share with those around her and is filled by the role that she has granted herself. She is a giver, and it is all that she knows.

I came to Bali to work on an adventure marketing campaign that is pushing the traditional bounds of charity and marketing, but I am learning beyond this experience. Although I still view this venture as a potential way to help people, I am learning that you don’t have to go on elaborate motorcycle rides through remote villages and deliver vaccines in order to give back. You can simply share. You can give, without counting, without keeping score. It has the power to make a true difference in the world.

Ninie’s currency is people, and she has taught me that this is not a means to use people as an exchange, but to see them as valuable. In everything that I do, I want to view human interaction as the reward. She is challenging me to live the life of a giver, and it is not an easy task.

I want to challenge you to do the same.

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