I often find myself thinking about opportunity cost within the context of people and time and not just economics.
If I do this, then I can’t do that. This and that can mean a lot of different things.
- If we spend the holidays with my in-laws, I miss seeing my side of the family.
- If I attend an important family birthday party, I miss the leadership meeting at my church.
- If we drive my daughter cross-country to her new home, I miss the only time my youngest comes home from college before Thanksgiving.
All recent, real-life examples where one choice affected the others. Too often decisions aren’t clearcut about how I choose my time or spend my resources. They’re between good and better choices. That aggravating distinction between better and best can be a matter of minuscule degree.
These days I’m thinking a lot about how I spend my time and money – a lot – and I suppose at least some of that is tied to what my daughter is doing.
She is living what I profess to believe.
That is not to say I am not also living what I believe, but let’s just say I recognize the difference between her choices and my own.
I’ve learned a lot about community development from Rachel, which makes sense since it was her college major. Mostly I’ve learned through conversation, the osmosis of family, but also through proofreading a few of her papers. Her 25-page SIP was fascinating to me; she insists that’s because I’m her mother, but I know better. She writes beautifully, yes, but substantive and provocative content anchored me to the next page, and then the next and the next. She also passed along her copy of Half the Sky to me – a book I can not recommend highly enough. Through one incredible story after another, Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn introduce you to people in need and people willing to help. I’m not talking about huge corporations or complex organizations, I’m talking about people like me, like you.
One person willing to do something, to get it out of their head or heart and into the world, will make a difference. And it doesn’t matter whether that difference is to the masses; if you make a difference for One, that can make ALL the difference for that One.
It’s why I wrote what I did the other day–
I remember being so irritated with my husband years ago, when he challenged me on the notion of need versus want. It was in the context of selling our house in South Carolina; we had purchased a new home in Tennessee, with the assurance his company would ultimately buy our house if it didn’t sell after a period of time. It was an incredible perk, but those months with two mortgage payments weighed heavy. I felt the pressure.
We needed to sell our house.
But my husband the engineer, literalist, realist, concrete thinker corrected me. “We don’t need to sell our house; we want to sell our house.” His point was that we were able to cover the payments, and that we were not going without anything we needed. Maybe there wasn’t money for extras – new clothes or travel or whatever – but we had a roof over our head, two cars to drive, and more than enough food to eat. Our kids never had to worry about a next meal or what to wear. We were doing fine.
It infuriated me that he didn’t agree with me.
But as much as I didn’t like it, he was right. We didn’t need to sell our house; selling our house would have simply given us more money to steward.
I love how the Lord has given me a daughter whose heart is to work with the poor. Certainly, we are givers; but rarely do we sacrifice. We have well beyond what we need.
This thing is a holy wrestle for me. I know when conviction pierces my heart, the Holy Spirit is at work to bring about a change, to redirect my thinking and doing, to produce new fruit. I need to listen to that.
What I do not need to believe are the lies from an enemy who hisses condemnation. The bible tells me “…there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” If that’s what I’m sensing – gracious, if that’s what you’re hearing from me – it must be categorically rejected! Condemnation is not from God.
I shopped over the long weekend, taking advantage of seasonal bargains. No one should feel guilty about stewarding their resources well. I’m all about getting the max for the minimum.
Today is Giving Tuesday. Part of me wants to reject it. Honestly, I hate the timing of it. Seriously? After all the Black Friday hype, after Shop Local Saturday and Cyber Monday, after you’ve shopped til you dropped and spent all of your money on yourself, your family and friends, THEN give out of what’s left?
I hate the timing. And I hate giving being a big deal on one day, rather than a spirit of on-going generosity.
But that’s the cynic and judge in me, not my better qualities.
I believe in giving generously; it’s one of the earliest lessons Mama taught me, “Those who have give to those who don’t.” I haven’t learned to give sacrificially yet, but I hope to learn.
I’ve given up a few indulgences in order to free up those dollars with the intention of giving that money away. I’ve found that giving up the luxuries was the easier part; following through on the giving away part is sometimes slow to follow. In other words, my intention is there, I’ve even taken a tangible step in that direction. But it’s important to give that money away on purpose.
Not using it for an indulgence of choice (i.e., Starbucks, pedicure, etc.) is not the same thing as giving it away. Imagine that.
Anyway, I’ve written a lot of words to introduce a few special organizations I hope you’ll consider supporting. Would you be willing to give up your favorite indulgence during the month of December for a year-end gift? Or, if you find yourself with a pile of money, feel free to share it with these groups. They’re special to me (I’ll be happy to tell you why), and you can trust your dollars will be stewarded well.
People in ministry pray for generous givers. They trust the Lord for provision.
Today would you join me in believing that you and I are the answer to someone’s prayer? If no one has come to mind as you’ve read, I’m asking you to consider a gift to the following groups I love, pray for, and support financial because I believe in their respective missions. All of them in some way are loving God by loving others in big and little ways.
- Cross Purpose. This is the organization my daughter is working for in a two-year Fellowship. It is incredible, tackling poverty in Denver by connecting with the people they serve. They’re living what Diedrich Bonhoeffer wrote about in Life Together. Just beautiful. (Note: Dollars are always in need for the organization itself, but if you’d like to give to Rachel specifically, please be sure to leave a note earmarking your contribution for her.)
- Compassion International. This child advocacy program is still my favorite; the work they’re doing in poor countries is astounding. My trip to India still affects me in unexpected ways. If you aren’t in a position to sponsor a child, click around their site and check out their Gift Catalog. There are FUN ways to give and your children will delight in choosing gifts for others in need.
- Salvation Army. I’ve linked here to my own online Red Kettle, but I’d encourage you to give locally, too. Their motto, “Doing the most good” their desire to serve their local communities well.
- Mercy House Kenya. I’ve Kristen Welch’s idea for a maternity home for young girls in Kenya (victims of abuse) evolve from a dream to reality. It’s a hard, noble work, small scale in nature, and changing the trajectory of the girls’ lives it serves, and their babies. This is what the book Half the Sky talks about, and Kristen and her colleagues are inspirational.
Those are just a few places where I put my money where my mouth is. I’d love to hear where you’re giving your dollars and prayers and time–do share your favorite organizations in comments!