Monday, January 18, 2010

Giving your home away for charity and the "loaves and the fishes".

Hannah Salwen (Chronological age: 17, Wisdom age: ancient) and her father Kevin have a new book, "The Power of Half" due out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 10th. You can already order at Amazon.

Without giving away the details ( I read them in the Jan.17th  Parade Magazine), Hannah and her family sold their McMansion and moved into a house half the size of their dream home. They gave the profits to "The Hunger Project".  The book recounts their journey to half size their lives. Funny thing happened, their lives actually grew exponentially when they de-linked happiness from ownership of a precious thing (the dream home).

Today I fiddled with another of my throw-away gadgets that cannot be fixed, and I struggled again with how wasteful I have been in my life. I am certain that compared to my peers and colleagues that I have been exemplary, but that doesn't rid me of the nagging thought that I can do more as far as getting rid of "stuff"

In prior posts you have read how my wife and I are on a simple journey to a place with "just less stuff",.

The Salwens embarked on a journey of Odysean proportions. They have learned that stuff just makes you miserable by separating you from the people you love and from doing the things that bring you the most joy. I don't think cleaning a large house, or worse yet supervising the household help brings joy unless you are really bored and not too, too bright. I am certain Hannah Salwen registers high on the brightness scale. Kevin related that the family had been more "lucky" than most. (Kudos for the reality check) His children are capable of complex thought.  If your children are not capable of complex thought, do not despair. I caution patience, expect it to happen after age 21. I will post, what I have learned recently, about neurological science and learning. (Academic types had it about half right, stay tuned to the post on learning skills and complex thinking).

Well anyway, here is my tale of caution for the Salwens; From the Gospel of John (Please don't read anything in here, just because it's Biblical doesn't mean it lacks truth for our time)
The crowds followed Jesus on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.

"Bring them here to me," he said.

Jesus directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
My wife and I believe in "the loaves and fishes". We have seen it time and time again. The simple truth is that the more you give away the more you get back. People see you giving and give to the community and you get rewarded with more stuff to give away. The cycle then continue unless you break it.

The Salwens are on the second half of the cycle and they have already received immensely in their personal lives. They are heading further into the payback period, with book sales earnings, speaking gigs, personal appearances, endorsements (yes! for good services and not for stuff I hope) and offers of full ride scholarships for Hannah and her brother Joseph.

I begrudge them nothing, they did not set out to make a movie or even think about profit, but they will profit materially. I sincerely hope that they recognize the best way to keep what they have earned is to keep giving it away.

Good luck to Hannah and Joseph, I hope they remember "the loaves and fishes" throughout their lives.

PS: The Salwens were given a great gift in their timing. If most of us sold our homes for charity we would be asking the charity for the credit check to satisfy the mortgage, and yes I understand that Kevin is a journalist and this was a good story to boot.

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