Take What You Need

Vikki Bowes-Mok
3 min readNov 3, 2020

With the election here and the global pandemic continuing to impact our world, it’s hard to know what we need these days to get by.

But last week, I got an email from my friend, Michelle, who runs My Village Well and it filled me right up, so I wanted to share it with you. It contained a note and a simple pdf of a flier that said “Take What You Need.”

The note from Michele said this:

A few months into the pandemic, I found this flier template online, and stapled it onto a tree out in front of our house. Each time a neighbor stops to ponder, the girls eagerly gather at the front window, watching and waiting to observe which slip will be taken. This is followed by enthusiastic yelling: “Someone just took HOPE, Mom!”

If you feel inclined to bring a little Hope to your ‘hood, I want to invite you to do so. You never know how such a small gesture may affect someones day.

Well, I loved this idea so I printed a copy, made the small cuts to allow people to take one and hung it in our neighborhood. And sure enough, each day a few more were missing — people were taking what they needed.

The first need taken was Fun, followed by Joy, Courage, Hope, Love and Chocolate. This inspiring little flyer got so much attention that I had to print out a fresh one and replace it. It was such an easy way to put smiles on our neighbors’ faces.

I was curious about the origin of this flyer so I went back to the link for Take What You Need and explored the website. It was loaded with interesting information, including this on the homepage:

If it leads to compassion, you know it’s knowledge. Otherwise, it’s just more information.

Followed, a bit more mysteriously, by:

Nothing is irrelevant. Nothing is wasted. Everything is Transformed.

It turns out the website belongs to Gerald Grow, a retired professor of journalism, cartoonist and photographer. I decided to drop him an email and find out more about this flyer.

We had the loveliest email exchange, including how Take What You Need was developed. Here’s what Gerald had to say:

Yes, I came up with this idea — or, as I like to think, the idea was in the air, and it came and found me. At some point, I had made lists of emotional terms, then value terms — I don’t remember why. But just reading a list of positive values was enlivening. That experience probably gave rise to the poster. Take What You Need turns out to be about things you can’t, after all, really ‘take.’ Everything on it is something you either have to achieve through your own effort, receive in an act of grace, or aspire to. The poster is a way to remind people of the good qualities they already possess, and others they aspire to. I’m happy for people to adapt and use this. At my age (78), there’s less use in holding onto things.

Well, thanks for your generosity Gerald, and I couldn’t agree more. I invite everyone to print a copy of Take What You Need and hang it in your neighborhood and see what unfolds, for we all need a little Wonder, Empathy, Wisdom and so much more these days.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.