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Learning Reciprocity

noun: reciprocity
the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.

Do you remember Newark in the 80s and 90s? I do. Vividly. For this reason, I have had to re-learn what reciprocity means. During that time, giving back in the Bricks meant setting yourself up to get got, looking over your shoulder and always being suspicious of favors; especially ones handed out during election time.

I cannot say I have shed all of my survival skills of the 80s and 90s, in particular, around election time, but I have learned that reciprocity as a small business owner is more than providing a service and getting paid. That is a transaction. Reciprocity is building deeper relationships to build community. In its simple definition, it is sharing.

This came to me last week as I was drinking wine at Mix 27 while I waited on Kaia to get her nails done for her birthday. After long days I like to have a beer, or two and often rotate between Nishi Sushi, Kilkenny’s and Mix 27. On that day, I started the party for her. While I imbibed, several clients passed by and purchased more glasses of wine. Four of them decided to join me. When they found out the reason behind the mid-day vino, they waited with me to wish her happy birthday.

Kaia is always rooting for the community and hugged everybody in appreciation for their support. While walking to the car, she said that we are a part of something newspapers will never catch or never want to see about Newark, “a network of dope ass, down ass, beautiful people”. In the next breath, without skipping a beat, she asked me if I needed to drive. A little tipsy, I told her I had four, maybe five glasses on a half-empty stomach. She rolled her eyes, shook her head and put out her hand for the keys. When I gave her the keys, she said something about reciprocity and named all the things clients and other business owners have shared with us — and us in return.

I recall a video I saw in Black Enterprise that talked about the health of your store in many ways relies on the health of other businesses around you. That is true. But it is much more. It also depends on the well-being of your clients.

In the past years I have been going to more birthday parties, cookouts, art exhibitions, fundraisers, charity events, etc. than I have my whole life. At first, it was a task. Now, it is an honor.

Life of a seventy Sixes Barber

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