Posted in focus on faith

Generosity Part 2: the myth of scarcity

In 1990, 25-year-old Jim Ziolkowski was trekking across Nepal when he entered a remote village and encountered an inauguration ceremony for the village’s new schoolhouse. The 8507980865_aa9e29534f_bschool had been built with the help of British mountaineers. The local residents’ joy and the obvious importance of the school moved Jim deeply.

When he returned home to the US, Jim took a job with GE Capital,…ready to embark on a long and lucrative career; however his heart was still in Nepal….

So Jim … quit his job, recruited his similarly broke brother, Dave, and friend, Marc Friedman and launched buildOn, a nonprofit organization with the intention of building schools in developing countries….

The count as of today is 587 schools have been built.


The vast majority of us will not quit our jobs, leave our careers, and risk all of our large or small personal fortunes to make a difference. It’s not that we’re not caring. Far from it, we would love to help make the world a better place. It’s simply that we aren’t all called to incubate and grow an enterprise. We have other dreams and talents. But we can partner with people like Jim by contributing to their efforts financially. And amazingly, none of us has to break the bank to make it happen. When enough of us write checks, the checks need not be large. (Wendy Smith, Give a Little: how your small donations can transform our world, pp 3, 4) 

I’m not a Jim. Are you? Using Wendy Smith’s terms, Jim is a “doer”; the rest of us are “donors”. Without donors, doers wouldn’t get very far!

But I don’t want you to miss the key element in Wendy Smith’s position; reread the subtitle of her book…how your small donations can transform our world. Key word? Small. Five bucks, ten bucks, twenty bucks…. most of us can afford that.

In the same vein, James Bryan Smith writes in The Good and Beautiful Community, that people fail to be generous when they accept the false narrative of “scarcity” which says, “if I give it away, I have less.” He urges us to replace that myth with God’s truth, which is: “If we all share, we all have enough.” In other words, there is enough for everyone–but only when we take our fair share.

The principle I want to leave with you is from James Smith: frugality creates margin which enables generosity. Don’t be stingy — be wise. Make wise choices regarding your personal resources of time, talent, and treasure so that you have enough left over to share with others.

Posted in focus on faith

Generosity Part 1: the legacy

Mom and dad with first child, PauletteMy mom and dad were generous people. Considering they had little money, their generosity extended far beyond writing a cheque.

They raised eight kids in a self-made house that grew, to keep pace with the family, from a one room shack into a three bedroom “palace”. Eventually a fourth bedroom, smaller than most prison cells, was added to the back porch so our one brother could find some solace from the estrogen-charged atmosphere of a tiny abode bulging with females.

As the kids grew up, moved on and married, my parents, who barely kept pace with their own bills, were creatively and sacrificially generous. Although they had little treasure to give, they gave what they could and freely shared the valuable resources of time and talent.

When they knew that one of us needed a couch or a bed or some kitchen appliance or perhaps just linens and cutlery, they would “discover” that they needed something new. Once they purchased their item, the old one was generously offered to us, and gratefully received!

Mom generously spent the majority of her life hunched over a sewing machine so her seven daughters could be well dressed and even trendy! She could copy any design and we kept pace with fashion thanks to her tireless effort.

They were generous with their home, often welcoming people for meals or parties or overnight. They once took in a teen girl whose parents moved away and she wanted to finish high school in our town.

They generously made the effort to visit their grown children and families, realizing that travel was costly for a young family and babies (and tired mommies) are usually most cheerful at home.

They gave to their local church and volunteered countless hours in service at events, building projects, and spiritual formation.

Mom and dad left me a legacy of generosity that I have tried to emulate with my own family. I recently purchased a new-to-me couch from a local charity  and passed IMG_3478along my still-great-condition-but-I’m-really-sick-of couches to my oldest daughter. She has plans to paint the woodwork so as to blend with her decor.

Gerry and I have tried to set an example of generosity for our three kids — all grown and married now — and we are gratified every time we see them being generous with their time, talent and treasure.

What legacy of generosity did you receive from your parents? How do you pass that on to your kids?