Friday, January 09, 2009

Giving is a Gift

When Todd and I started our marriage over 13 years ago, we were the recipients of many gifts. There were times during seminary when we didn't know if we were going to be able to make it to the next paycheck. And every time, a check magically appeared from a generous relative, church, or other source. When we moved to Waco and it was my turn to go to school, we continued to receive gifts beyond our wildest imagination. For example, due to the generosity of the then US Ambassador to Sweden and others, I received a bachelor's degree from Baylor University. We also received free pediatrician care, eye care, babysitting, and more from generous members of the 1st Pres congregation. We would not be where we are now without the gifts from dozens of friends and family members.

Now, it is our turn to give back. For the past several years, we have dutifully given to the church and randomly responded to requests for funds from educational institutions, hospitals, and other charitable organizations. However, when we got to the end of the year, we always realized that we didn't quite give as much as we would like to and our giving didn't necessarily reflect our values.

For this coming year, we decided to change that. We determined up front how much we wanted to give based on our current income levels and which organizations we wanted to support. Based on that, I simply worked our charitable donations into the budget with specific target recipients each month.

If you are interested, here are the organizations we ended up with and the reasons why:
We're big fans of higher education and hope that our gifts will give other students a chance to live out their dreams. The above organizations very much illustrate our desire to give back.
  • Carbon Fund: We give to this organization to offset our cars and other travel.

  • Conservation International: This organization works to preserve our planet and makes a big impact everyday around the world.

  • NRDC: Another organization which works for the environment from every angle including politics.

  • Slow Food USA: The vision of this organization is a world where everybody has food to eat which is good for them and which is produced in a manner which is good for the planet.

  • Heifer International: Great organization which helps people all around the world make a sustainable living in an earth-friendly manner.

  • Plowshare Center: Part of the Ten Thousand Villages organization, this cozy store offers fairly traded products from around the world (more to come on fair trade...).
What the above organizations all have in common is a vision of a healthy planet with healthy people who have the means to support themselves in a manner which in turn promotes the health of Mother Earth. That is my definition of the "Circle of Life."

I truly believe the statement in the title of this post. The ability to give is a gift. Not only does a gift benefit the recipients of the gift, but it also benefits the giver in innumerable ways.

No one has ever become poor by giving.
- Anne Frank

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