Yesterday, I talked about making a list of things that represent the kind of open-handedness that leads people to put a 13th cookie in your bag, or to wrap your purchase in beautiful paper and give you a free postcard to go along with it, even though all you bought from them was a cake of soap. As I thought about this, I realized that maybe the reason this custom flourishes in New Orleans long after whatever merchantile calculation at its origin is forgotten, is because the giver enjoys doing it as much as the recipient enjoys getting the extra thing. It's counter-intuitive, but I suspect that you can't feel impoverished when you give things to other people. "Things" would include material things and also things that take time to do, even if they don't cost anything.
I worry sometimes that, as I explore these kinds of questions, I'll descend into a weird place where I won't be able to recognize things of real worth — where I begin to give people Christmas ornaments fashioned out of dryer lint and won't know why that's bad. I'm not advocating that and if I begin to do it I expect you, dear reader, to yank me off that ledge.
The starting point in figuring out what your lagniappe is going to be are the sorts of things that give daily pleasure, things that make an immediate difference in the texture of a day. For me, that's: food, books, order, stationery supplies, music, card games and soap.
Here's my lagniappe for other people today: I've got a million postcards I've collected from various places. Many of them have associations with friends I don't speak to as often as I'd like. I'm taking the change out of the bottom of my purse today, buying postcard stamps that are kind of cool looking and I'm going to write postcards tonight to people I love. I'm not going to write fifty postcards, by the way. I'm going to write a few really good ones. To accomplish that, I plan to use a wonderful egg timer I got someplace. It's not really an egg timer, unless you like your eggs to cook for half an hour — it's an hour glass that lasts for half an hour. A half hour glass? (I digress. It's a blog after all.) Anyway, that's how long I'll spend writing to my friends — 30 minutes. (I have my friend Debby to thank for this idea — in the last month or so, she's written me two actual letters and I loved them both.)
I also have visions of buying the women I work with things from the stationery store. Or tins of tea. Of cooking with my children, and getting people to take out library cards and using the library myself to listen to music sampled somewhat at random.
Today, though, I'm going to buy myself one perfect cake of soap with the money I have left over from buying stamps. Citrus flavored, I think.
Have a lovely weekend.