“The Power of Half” is a new book about a family that made a dramatic commitment to doing good in the world — not by quitting their jobs and going to live in an impoverished village someplace, but by redirecting some of their considerable blessings.
In a first-person article in Parade magazine headlined Why We Gave Away Our Home, Kevin Salwen wrote:
Ten years ago, we moved into our dream house — a spacious, three-story historic home — thinking it would bring us the joy we desired. It was a beautiful place, but as our children grew up, our sense of togetherness began to fade away. In the big dream house, we scattered in different directions. When we sat down at dinner, our conversations centered more often on to-do lists than on anything meaningful. On weekends, as we drove from activity to activity, the TV in the back seat kept the kids entertained and our family from connecting. Was money the problem? Probably not. But it certainly wasn’t making our lives any richer. So we did something audacious. Nuts, really.
One day when Hannah was 14, she became upset about the disparities between the world’s haves and the have-nots. She challenged us to be “a family that makes a difference in the world, even if it’s a small difference.” Joan asked her, “What are you willing to sacrifice? Your house? Your room?” Hannah said yes to both. After talking it over as a family, we decided to sell our house and move to one that was half its size and price –and donate the difference to charity.
These were smart, hard-working, educated people with good careers — he a journalist turned entrepreneur, she a management consultant turned teacher — trying hard to give their kids a good life. Then one of their kids made them re-evaluate.
Since I first heard about the Salwens, I’ve cast a critical eye around our home to consider what’s essential and what’s optional. While shelter, food and clothing are necessary, let’s be honest. We could get by with a lot less. Do I need as many pairs of shoes, all those necklaces and earrings? Do we need to go out to eat as often as we do?
The Salwens decided to get by with less, to share some of their resources, and ended up finding they felt better for it. They found themselves closer as a family with less square footage to rattle around and fewer expensive distractions.
Maybe you aren’t ready to sell your house and sell half the proceeds. But Kevin Salwen suggests other interpretations — cut your TV viewing in half and spend half that time volunteering, for example.
If you’re inspired enough to think about the potential, here’s a blog post called How to give — a quest for the right strategy. Kevin Salwen writes:
A few days back, I saw a man holding a sign that stopped me cold. It wasn’t the Hungry, Homeless, Please Help that you usually see. It had these simple words: So little to you means so much to me. Please help. God bless. Wow. “So little to you means so much to me” rattled around in my brain, and still does.
He was right of course, so little to us can mean so much to others. But HOW? How could I really help that man long-term? How do we actually help others if they want to change?
What do you think is the right way to make the world a better place?