Friday, July 31, 2009

Refrigerator rights

I recently got a call from one of my best friends from high school, who happened to be back at his parents’ house and was remembering times we had spent together hanging out there. We caught up and talked about mutual friends and whatnot, and we recalled all the significant late night conversations that took place around their kitchen table. I mentioned to him that awhile ago I had come across the book Refrigerator Rights, which talks about how real community, friendship and hospitality can be measured by the degree that friends have "refrigerator rights," the comfort level and freedom to just open up the fridge and feel welcome to use things there without asking.

My friend's parents really modeled this for us. They would insist that any of us high schoolers should feel free to get pop or juice from the fridge and snack on whatever was around. This seemed odd at first, but soon became normal for us. And much of our friendship and community was facilitated by the food and hospitality symbolized by open access to that refrigerator.

It seems to me that one easy way to offer refrigerator rights is that the next time you have people over, in addition to asking, "Can I get you anything?" you could also say, "Feel free to get whatever you need from the fridge." And don't get freaked out if people take you up on it!


Unknown said...

I'm catching up on your blog and just wanted to say thanks for mentioning this book!

I'm reminding of a next-door neighbor that was my brother's best friend for several years... he certainly THOUGHT he had refrigerators rights!! haha. Always thought he was a pest, now I realize he was just trying to teach us about community--how kind! :-P

The book sounds super-interesting... but I would also ask if it works the same for individuals from all cultural backgrounds. I wonder if more communal, hospitable people (ex: African, Middle Eastern, Latin American cultures) that more frequently help out their neighbors, etc. might do this even if they weren't as emotionally "close" and how the benefits of this kind of community might be similar and different to a more emotionally connected community. (In other words, how do community and the individual relationships each matter?)

I'll have to see if the book is at the Fuller library. ;o)

Al Hsu said...

Most other cultures around the world wouldn't need this book! It's definitely a corrective to Western individualism and notions of privacy. Other cultures might need other correctives.