Your Money Chooses

“Apart from the ballot box, philanthropy presents the one opportunity the individual has to express their meaningful choice over the direction in which our society will progress”

George K Kirstein

There is nothing I can do about it now. I voted. The election is over and now I sit back and wait to see where the leaders take the country, until the next election in three years when they ask my opinion again. I have this tiny moment in time to add my voice to the millions of others, and if most people agree then we might get somewhere. It’s hard to see what kind of impact I really have though. One vote in millions doesn’t seem to carry any weight at all, so why bother? I am sure that I’m not the only one who has thought that too because in my electorate alone, the informal votes ranked higher than a number of the candidates. That means that more people didn’t fill out their ballot paper correctly than those who voted for some candidates on purpose. The Australian Electoral Commissions suggests that 5% of all votes are informal and can’t be officially counted.

It’s easy to see how people can end up there. And it’s easy to see how people can disengage from community life thinking that they are unable to change anything, so why bother.

But that’s not true. The impact an individual can have on our world is huge, and we don’t have to wait for an election to be called to do it. Every day we have money within our control and what we do with it creates the society we live in. The organisations we give to shift our culture. When we give money to charities it shows politicians what people actually care about, not what they say they care about. Money moves our culture. Money moves our values. Money is a tool we can use to create the society we want. We get to choose what we do with it. So, give generously to organisations as a vote to create the world you want.

Nope.

There is a story, perhaps a myth, about the king of Siam (modern day Thailand) who would give a white elephant to those in his kingdom who displeased him. Not wanting to upset the king, everyone accepted this gift. Plus, it was such an honour to own such a rare animal and it signified that you had made it. It was the Ferrari 250 GTO of its day (look it up, super rare and expensive).

In doing so, it was the king’s hope that the cost of looking after the elephant would financially ruin the person and free the king of their presence. Pretty sneaky.

Then there is the time that the king of Siam offered two elephants to President Abraham Lincoln in the early 1860’s, because America had none, and obviously need some.

The catch was that Siam didn’t have the means to transport them there, so President Lincoln needed to send a ship full of hay and other food that the elephants could eat. Also, fresh water – tanks of it. Plus, special berths so that the elephants could stand up and lie down. Also, they wanted to do it a few times so it would be more than one trip. Once in America, they had to make sure the elephants kept warm and then they should just let them run around the country for a bit to multiply.

President Lincoln said no. Respectfully so. With wisdom. Essentially he said, “Nah, we don’t need ‘em. We have other machinery that we use.”

I don’t know what the political fall out from that was, but that’s probably the reason there are no elephants in North America. Also, it’s way too cold in America for elephants. They would have died pretty quickly. In saying no, it saved America a lot of time, money and hassle.

Sometimes it’s important to say no when someone tries to give you something.

The Most Underpaid Team Member

The most valuable person in my team is underpaid. In fact, she earns nothing.

The most valuable person in my team is Lorraine.

She volunteers her time each week to make phone calls. Not a cold-call, scam type of phone calls. But in a ‘thank you for donating and making a difference’ type of way.

Each week, she gives up her time to go through the list of people who gave over the last 7 days and calls them simply to say ‘thanks’. That’s it.

And the response?

People love it. They truly value being thanked for doing something great. I have had many people let me know that they got a call from her and they really enjoyed it. I have had people give more often after getting a call from her. Maybe they felt so good about being thanked that they gave again. Maybe they just wanted to speak to Lorraine again. Whatever the reason, I know that Lorraine is the most valuable part of my team because she is at the forefront of caring for those who are using their generosity to end poverty, one family and one community at a time through the work of Opportunity.

No doubt, she needs a pay rise.

How to Not Be a Jerk

A regular generous act we can be part of is to provide the gift of feedback. We do it all the time, whether we know it or not. Sometimes with words, many times with just our face. Regardless of how we do it, feedback is common.

There is something refreshing about getting someone’s honest opinion on about an issue or something we have created. In certain cultures, feedback gets sugar coated or hidden so that people don’t get offended or embarrassed by their shortcomings. But this doesn’t build trust and it keeps people from getting an accurate understanding of areas they can improve on.

That is one of the reasons that we are drawn to people who don’t have a filter. Normally these are the types of people who say “I just call it as I see it”. Honesty. Refreshing honesty.

But, if you see ‘it’ like a jerk, you will call ‘it’ like a jerk.

Let me give you an example, if you watch someone give a presentation at work and you notice that they are nervous, and stumble over a few words, it is generous to provide feedback on what you have seen so that they can improve – if they are interested in doing so.

One way to give this feedback is:

“I enjoyed your presentation, thank you for taking the time to put this together. I noticed that you looked a little nervous and stumbled over some of your words, perhaps next time we can get together beforehand and practice a little bit. Would that be of interest to you?”

Generous.

Another way is like this:

“You were shaking like a leaf, and I didn’t understand half of what you said. Public speaking is not your thing. Stick to what you are good at.”

Jerk.

Both methods would be considered as “calling it as I see it”, one method just uses it as an excuse to be a jerk.

How you deliver feedback is just as important as what the feedback is. No one can hear it well if you’re a jerk.

“Put on your own mask first” is flawed

“You must put on your own mask first before assisting others.”

This makes sense in an emergency flight situation, because if you try to help someone put on their oxygen mask before you have yours on, it is likely you will pass out very quickly before you can finish helping them, leading to a dire situation for you, and them.

We have imported this pre-flight safety element into a life philosophy. It gets used when talking about our mental health. Another one is ‘you can’t give from an empty cup’. Basically, look after yourself before you try to look after others.

It seems to fit, but it’s wrong.

These ideas assume that your mental health is not connected to the people around you, and if you are struggling with areas of life, all you need to do is to take a break from the world or isolate yourself from everyone else, recharge, feel better and then come back into the world to care for people.

There may be times when that is necessary, but the wellbeing of an individual is deeply linked to being in contact with and even caring for other people.

If you can spend time helping someone else and you can see the difference you are making, it will energise you. It is not a case of putting on your own mask first or filling your own cup up and then giving of yourself, but as you help someone else “put their mask on”, or “fill their cup”, your mask will be put on and cup will be filled up. As you care for others you will care for yourself. (Unless you don’t have generous boundaries).

One in a Million

‘You are one in a million’ is not as good as it sounds. It’s definitely not as good as it used to be.

It means that there are 7,600 more of you around the world, which doesn’t make you feel as unique. It is possible to meet them.

‘You are one in a billion’ sounds better.

Although that still means there are 7 of you out there.

One in 7.6 billion is the best, although it’s a bit clunky and not as easy to say.

This is one of the downsides to population growth.  

The global population in 1700 was about 600 million people.

By 1800 it had reached around 1 billion.

It had reached 1.6 billion by 1900, 2 billion by 1928, 5 billion by 1987 and 7.9 billion in 2021.

Since 1800 the global population has increased by 700%.

People used to freak out about this and worry about our impending doom as the sheer amount of people would surely overrun the planet, use everything and bring about the end of the world.

Why is no one worried about this now?

Because we have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. When that happens, families have less children because they can be confident that they will survive, they no longer need to think about who will look after them when they get older, and they become more educated about contraception. People’s generosity did this.

At this stage the global population should plateau at around 11 billion in 2100. Crisis just about averted.

Now, on to climate change.

The Generosity of Justice

What do we do with people when they wrong us? How should we treat them? With justice, mercy or grace?

Justice is giving someone what they deserve. An eye for an eye would be considered justice. It’s a just punishment. Now, as a society, we have decided to use isolation in a prison, along with financial fines to be what we consider justice. You do the crime, you do the time…or pay the fine.

Mercy is giving someone what they do not deserve. This is a free pass. Freedom to keep going on their way. All charges have been dropped. Debt completely cleared. We would all be drawn to mercy if we are caught doing something wrong, but it is the most dangerous of the three, if it’s in isolation.

Grace is the hard work of restoration, in partnership with either justice or mercy. It is the intentional act of drawing someone in, acknowledging what they did, that it was wrong, that it caused damage and deserves justice, offering forgiveness and a fresh start. If mercy and grace are offered and not accepted and behaviour is not changed, then the appropriate response is justice and grace– not out of a desire for revenge or retribution, but as an opportunity to grow, develop and change.

All three are an act of generosity. The gifts of justice, mercy and grace. But it is grace that has the greatest power to bring healing and restoration to people and relationships. Grace is also the hardest one to give out.

Don’t Get Stuck

“What causes a problem matters less than what maintains it” – Trevor Kashey

“Who did this?”

The question hung in the silence for what seemed like an eternity as two sets of eyes looked back at me in fear, eagerly waiting to see how they should respond to this emotional time, depending on how upset I was.

Another broken item in the home. Not an uncommon experience although it is one that drives me a little crazy.

My desire to get to the bottom of who, what, why and when of these sorts of situations can be helpful to figure out just what happened, but at the same time it can cause greater stress than the traumatic breaking of the breakfast bowl.

The result can leave kids being so afraid of breaking something that they get anxious about carrying a bowl from the kitchen to the table and in their anxiety, drop said bowl and break it. Creating more anxiety. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This can happen in any area of life. We can get so caught up in avoiding failure that we are afraid to act, and when something does inevitably go wrong, we can expend all this energy figuring out who or what caused it, getting stuck in the process of dealing out blame. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for accountability and being responsible for your actions, but if it’s just about discovering who to get angry at then we have missed the point. Anger doesn’t create solutions. Blame doesn’t create growth.

Instead of asking, “who did this?”, a better question is “what can we learn from this?”, or “how do we grow from this?” or “how can we improve this?”

Who or what causes a problem ‘matters less than what maintains it.’ It’s not about how we got here but it’s about where to from here.

It’s Never Too Late

You may have heard the question, when is the best time to plant a tree?

The answer is ‘20 years ago’.

The second best time to plant a tree? Right now.

There is a cost to spending time doing something.

Time spent at school could have been time spent at work.

Time spent at work could have been time spent with the family.

Time spent playing sport could have been time spent studying.

Time spent learning an instrument could have been time spent playing sport.

Time spent playing a video game could have been time spent doing anything else.

In the moment it doesn’t really matter. But over time these decisions add up, and lost time is gone forever. It’s a tree never planted. You get no shade. You get no air. You get no beauty from a tree that doesn’t exist.

It is never too late, though. You can always start now. You can always do something for the first time today, to become the type of person that you want to become – and little by little, over time, it can build up to be a new skill, a new passion, a new job. A new tree.

Generosity is just like that. I have failed many times to be generous when given the opportunity. I have written people off. Not given when the chance arose and not cared when someone was in need. But that doesn’t mean I have to live like that always. I can begin again today by being generous with my time, my care and my forgiveness.

In 20 years’ time, the small decisions I make today will grow into something that will bring beauty to all who see it.

Doormat

Being generous is considered to be a ‘good’ thing…generally. But what if you want to achieve greatness, or do difficult things, or have hard conversations? There must be a time to put generosity aside to live in the real world, right?

How do you avoid getting pushed around and becoming a doormat for people because you are generous?

To start with, generosity is borne from a love of people. Here’s part of what that looks like:

Generosity Creates Boundaries

There is a time when simply giving something to someone, be that money, time, freedom, will cause that person harm. It can enable them to continue down a destructive path, or to hurt themselves or others. It is a special act of generosity to create boundaries which protect others and yourself from harm. Just because someone asks you for something it doesn’t mean you have to say yes.

Saying yes to something means saying no to something else. Be intentional about what you say yes to.

Generosity Has Challenging Conversations

Being generous to people means calling them out and inviting them into growth opportunities. It drives someone to embrace the discomfort of a challenging conversation because, by doing that, it has the ability to help someone else grow.

“I love you too much to not see you grow in your humanity” Derwin Gray, former NFL Player, Pastor at Transformation Church.

Generosity Trains

Generosity creates opportunities for people to grow, develop and improve their lives. It encourages people to change, giving them options.

It is not generous to keep people trapped in a cycle of need, dependence and ignorance.

Generosity doesn’t make you a doormat. Generosity empowers you to empower others on their own journey.