The Unexpected Gift Exchange

Directions were short and sweet: Meet at 7pm on Wednesday, February 27 by the hay bales with a gift that’s something “undiscovered” from your home town. When TEDActivator Ashley Marshall posted the message to the community, she had no idea how many people would show up in the spirit of giving. The idea swiftly gained momentum during the first two days of TEDActive. Ashley remarks, “People got excited. It was interesting to think about what I should bring to showcase what my hometown is all about. I had to really think about what to bring from Dallas.”

About 50 TEDActivators gathered in The Quad with their paper bags, envelopes and wrapped surprises. Although the things they carried were unique in form, they were similar in that they were bound by the same emotional vein. They brought coffee sets from Busan, South Korea, a lemon squeezer from Argentina, traditional Pakistani shawls, infamous Chicago “Nuts on Clark” popcorn, a bag with a design of the 1967 Montreal World Fair. They traded for Lebanese tamborines, southern barbecue sauce from Atlanta, Georgia, spiced artisan chocolate from France, Texan sweet potato pie fudge, and pear brandy made in Portland.  Exchanges spanned languages, countries, ethnicities and ages.

Natalia Menhem from Brazil brought a carranca, a miniature grotesque figurehead that was placed on a boat’s prow to ward off evil spirits. She exchanged with Sara Sibai from Lebanon who brought an enameled miniature sword. Sara says “There’s still a lot of violence in the Middle East, but also alternative means of expression. This sword is kind of a symbol for how we’ve let down the sword. It’s become a decoration, not a weapon.”

Michael Esposito from San Diego traded a black Snake Oil Cocktail Company t-shirt to Lærke Ullerup from Denmark for a pair of underwear born from a repurposed shirt. “I’m required to take a picture with them at some point and she’ll take a picture with the T-shirt in Denmark.”

And what did the mastermind of the event bring? Ashley brought a koozie (a beer holder that keeps your beer cold) from the Dallas Cowboys, her favorite team, and a dishcloth made out of a flour sack with Texan-themed designs on it. And in return, she received a locally-designed and hand-made wooden ornament from San Diego for her ornament collection. “I hope we make this an annual thing!”

4 thoughts on “The Unexpected Gift Exchange”

  1. What a great idea! I’m going to TEDActive in 2014 and if this idea takes hold, then a) more people should bring presents and 2) people should bring more than one present! Spread the goodwill!!!


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