Take Away Lessons from The Power of Half
Guest Post by Bronwyn Worthington
This easy-to-read story inspired me to think differently about reaching out to others in need. Kevin Salwen and his daughter, Hannah, chronicle their family’s adventure in charitable giving. The story tells how Kevin and his wife, along with their two teenage children, determine to give away half of the proceeds of their showcase home.
The story begins as Hannah travels along with Kevin in their car. Together, they spot a homeless man holding up a sign asking for food. Hannah feels distraught in her inability to help. This uncomfortable experience becomes a pivotal point in the lives of the Salwens. In the course of a moment, poverty shifts its face from a universal problem to a personal challenge.
Does a busy schedule cause you to tune out the needs of the hungry and homeless? Yes, life can get insanely busy. But opening our eyes to the needs of others will set us on a lighter path. Choosing to care enables us to develop insight into our neighbors throughout the world. As we give, our time, money, and talents are multiplied before our very eyes.
Challenge The Status Quo
In time the Salwens sold their 6,500 square foot home, allowing them to put $800,000 towards helping over twenty villages in Ghana. This decision required each of the Salwens to come to terms with personal sacrifice. While Kevin and his wife felt the pinch of the bottom dollar, Hannah and brother found the courage to exchange status for authenticity.
Whether we give away one afternoon a week to volunteer at an animal shelter, use our bread baking ability to bless a family in need, or donate an old couch to a benefit sale, we can find ways to give beyond ourselves. When we share, be it large or small, we discover how richly God has blessed us.
Choose a cause
Once we understand the importance of sharing our assets, philanthropy becomes much easier. Knowing we want to make a difference, we begin taking a few steps towards giving. Then, without warning, alarming statistics hit us. Billions of people live on less than a dollar a day. Much of the world spends 75 percent of their income on food. We wonder how one person can really expect to change the world. Our passion wavers and we feel ourselves creeping back towards our safe homes and secure bank accounts.
Maybe one of the reasons we lack the tenacity to plug away at fighting injustice results from not knowing where to give. Hannah suggests paying attention to the anger we feel when others around us are treated unfairly. Are we infuriated when others taunt a friend’s autistic child? Unable to sleep at night when considering human trafficking? Those feelings of unrest may actually be the catalyst for our unique mission. Once we identify our unique bent for giving, our capacity to serve is vastly extended.The Salwens’ Take Away
You won’t be able to put down The Power of Half as you watch how Hannah and her brother, Joseph, become agents of change for social justice. In a downtrodden market, incredible setbacks occur in the process of selling the Salwens’ home. They eventually find a much smaller, but suitable replacement home for their family to live in. And yes, they even manage to sell their mansion, although not for a price anywhere near what they had hoped. Meanwhile, the Salwens decided to partner with The Hunger Project. This venture would take their family to Ghana. There they would meet the recipients of their monetary gift. At the end of their adventure, this family of four considers themselves richer for having the opportunity to invest in what truly matters.
My husband and I live in a modest neighborhood with our two elementary-school-aged children. Five years ago, we made a significant down payment on our home just weeks before the housing market crashed. Selling our home for anyone’s profit is out of the question for our family. So, for now, we’ll need to follow Mother Teresa’s maxim of doing little acts of service with great love. Giving to our church, saving coins towards helping kids in Africa get clean water, and donating proceeds from a lemonade stand may be small ways to change the world, but they knit our family together in a spirit of compassion.
My husband and I have discovered that personal connections make all the difference in helping our kids learn to truly care about giving. In our fourteen years of marriage, we have always found a way to give to Compassion International. This has nothing to do with generosity. On the contrary, it has everything to do with Geoffrey, our sponsored child from Kenya. Over the years, we’ve observed this young boy grow up in the confines of a single-parent home. We write him letters and send money for his birthday. He writes back, thanking us profusely for the goat or chest of drawers he was able to buy. Now, approaching adulthood, Geoffrey has begun serving as a leader in his church. It’s simply amazing to consider a measly $40 a month ensures that kids like Geoffrey receive food, clothes, and an education.
How about you?
Forget giving half of your house. Maybe your family doesn’t even have $40 a month to spare. I get it. But don’t let that stop you. Join a walk or a run to raise awareness for children in need. Plan a date night around a benefit dinner for cancer victims. Let your children set up a bake sale and donate the proceeds (or just half of them) to a humane society. Whatever our financial situation, we all have something to offer others. Giving a portion away helps us see the depth of our blessings. Truly, as long as we have something to share with another human being, we are inherently wealthy.
Bronwyn Worthington is a freelance writer living in the Inland Northwest. She loves writing about non-profits and charitable organizations. Publications include articles on fighting hunger, domestic violence, and global citizenship.
Bronwyn also enjoys writing about sustainable living. Growing up in the 1970’s, she remembers living on nine acres of wilderness where her parents built a rustic log cabin. Although now a city dweller with her husband and two children, she continues to return to her roots of simple living. Bronwyn’s articles on sustainability include fair-trade coffee, farmers’ markets, and recycling.
Bronwyn’s passion for writing began in first grade when her teacher selected her to attend a writers conference. She graduated from Whitworth University with a degree in education and an endorsement in English. Contact her at her website or Facebook.