25% of Statistics are Made Up

25% of Statistics are Made up on the spot.

Is that statement true? Maybe, I could be part of the 25% I guess.

Numbers are great. They are logical and clinical.

They also lie, oversimplify and distract.

For example:

  • 1 in 10 people are colour blind
  • 90% of people can see colour just fine

Two messages from the same set of numbers which read very differently. Neither of which is actually true by the way.

We use numbers to draw attention to the significant issues in our world, and even if they are factually correct, it isn’t working. By themselves, numbers don’t work.

I could tell you that Opportunity International Australia is helping over 6 million families to work their way out of poverty through the power of a small loan, or I could tell you about Shoba…

Shoba, a wife and mother in India, was already living in poverty when her husband got sick.

They were unable to afford the medicine for her husband’s condition, so she borrowed from a money lender to get her husband the help he needed.

Sadly, he died.

In time, the money lender came to get what they were owed – which was now significantly more than the amount borrowed. Shoba did not have the money to pay.

The lender took both of her young sons to work off the debt by manual labour at a quarry.

Nobody should have to live like that, facing an impossible decision between critical healthcare and losing children to slave labour.

Shoba heard about the small loans available through Opportunity. She borrowed USD50 and bought some carving tools and supplies. Shoba hand carved wood into elephants which she sold by the roadside.

Using the money she earned to redeem her sons, Shoba was also able repay her Opportunity loan and build a better life for her family.

Breaking the cycle of poverty takes a lot of courage.

Making a donation is the easy part!

Opportunity has six million other stories like that. Stories that say more than statistics ever could, even if they aren’t made up.

Stories with true statistics will tell the whole story.

Give First

One of the earliest Jewish teachings was about giving. The Jews were instructed to give 10% of what they had to the priests as an offering to God. It wasn’t the last 10%, or 10% from somewhere in the middle, it was the very first 10%, or first fruits to be set aside from their latest crop or produce they had harvested.

Religious doctrine aside, this is a great practical process, because it ensures that whatever happens, you are generous first before consuming what is left over. If you were to wait and see what was left after you had used up all that you needed, there wouldn’t be anything left to give away. Generally, people will spend and use what is available to them.

This is one thing that I struggle to do but it is one of the best disciplines to have. Being intentional about giving means knowing how much you want to give away, and to whom, then putting that amount aside before it gets used on other things.

Give first, then live. It will help keep your priorities straight and loosen the grip that the love of money can have on you.

Which One?

I recently saw a list of those who make significant political donations and I was a little surprised that there were a number who gave to both major parties in Australia. I guess it makes sense if you are looking to hedge your bets, so you don’t back the wrong horse, but it reminded me of how most people give money to charity.

It is very rare to come across someone who donates to only one charity. Instead, I often hear that people give to a few different ones, sometimes to two that are working in a similar space because, whilst they may be different organisations with slightly different approaches, the supporter likes them both. So why not?

It’s a portfolio style of giving, where you choose a selection of charities to support across a few different areas. Some will be similar, others will be doing something completely different so that you can diversify your portfolio. Over time you become more engaged and connected with the charities you support which leads to greater fulfilment in your giving, as you learn more about the difference that your generosity is having.

I’m Not Asking for Your Money

I work for a charity and meet with people who donate significant amounts, but I don’t ask them to give money.

I used to do that, and it felt wrong. I felt like I was apologising every time I wanted to meet with them and that they thought I only wanted something from them…which was kind of true – their money.

I got tired of that feeling and of asking people to give money, so I decided to try something else.

Instead of asking people to give, I now invite people to fulfil their purpose through generosity. By giving money to Opportunity, an organisation that they are passionate about, our supporters are finding a way to fulfil their purpose.

They are bringing dignity to those living in poverty.

They are giving back some of what they have received.

They are living out their values.

They are showing care and concern for their fellow human beings.

They are releasing the hold that money can have on those who have it.

They are being generous and reaping the rewards that generosity bring.

So I don’t ask for money. I offer a pathway to purpose.

“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).

Always Poor

“The poor you will always have with you” – Jesus

Jesus was talking to a room full of people after someone used an expensive item in an extravagant act of gratitude towards him. Some in the room criticised this act, and in their moral superiority suggested a better use of this gift would be to sell it and give the money to the poor. Jesus essentially said, “if God is in your living room, then shower Him with your best. Spend up big on him because it probably won’t happen again. Tomorrow, when God is no longer in your living room, give generously to those who are living in poverty.”

What we think it means…

We take this interaction and think that it means that we don’t need to worry about trying to end poverty, because you can’t. It’s a fool’s errand. People will always be poor; it’s just how thing are. Give up now and save yourself some heartache.

What it actually means…

Aside from the main point of giving your best to God if He is literally sitting right in front of you, Jesus was talking about situational poverty, which is a transitional time that people go through. Life has all sorts of ups and downs and sometimes the downs can put you into a place of poverty for a season, which is when you require generosity from others. Situational poverty is a short term experience.

This is stark contrast to systemic poverty, which is generational in nature and ensures that those who are poor today will also be poor tomorrow – you know, the kind if extreme poverty we see in the world today. Systemic poverty is man-made and exists in the structures we have put into place which, among other things, ensure that those who are vulnerable are the ones that earn less, suffer greater life shocks, and end up living without what they need to flourish. It doesn’t matter what they do, the system is stacked against them and they are unable to work their way out of it. Most are born into it, and some fall into it, but it doesn’t matter how it happened, it doesn’t need to exist and we can end it.

Poverty will always exist, people will fall into poverty through challenging life circumstances, but to think it will always be the same group of people, and their family for generations to come, or that some people should live their entire lives in poverty because of where they were born, is arrogant, ignorant, and wrong.

Fortunately, we have been making some pretty great headway with some smart structures and a bunch of generous people. We know that systemic poverty doesn’t need to exist and that we can end it, one family and one community at a time. We can’t do it without you though.

Donate here

What Is This “Generosity”?

Being ‘generous’ used to mean that you were from noble birth. The term was reserved only for those families (which was essentially those that had generational wealth – some would give some of that wealth away).

Over time it changed from ‘being of noble birth’ to ‘being of noble spirit’. Moving from something you were born into and becoming more about the good and moral individual qualities that someone had. It didn’t change who was considered generous because many thought that people of noble birth had those qualities.

It didn’t take too long though, for people to realise that just because you were born into nobility, it doesn’t mean that you were of ‘noble spirit’. So, generosity was no longer measured by your family tree, and became all about actions. Anyone could be generous, no matter who they belonged to or how much money they had.

Fast forward to today, generosity has the following attributes:

It is Giving – A gift that shifts from one person to another. Be it time, money, presence, gifts, mental space, ideas, energy or encouragement.

It is Thoughtful – An act or gesture that an individual has put great thought into what would benefit the receiver. Be it something they enjoy or something that will help them.

It is Considerate – An act or gesture that takes into account the feelings of someone else, whether or not it is appropriate for them even if it would help, or if it may cause embarrassment.

It is Caring – An act designed to bring out the best possible outcome for the recipient.

It is Slow and Fast – Usually as a gift of time or presence with someone, that allows space to sit with them in their journey but also responds quickly.

It is Sacrificial – it costs something to be generous. A gift without cost is platitude.

It is Intentional – Something done on purpose.

Here’s what it isn’t…

Self centred –  For the sole purpose of making the one giving the gift feel better.

Accidental – Without generous intent. (A generous person may be accidentally generous to someone once, maybe twice, but if the only time someone is generous to others is by accident, that is not generosity).

Thoughtless – with no thought about the long-term impact that the ‘generous’ act could create.

Cunning – actions which are political in nature, which are premeditated to bring power to the giver.

Manipulative – used to force someone to do something for you.

Restrictive – actions that are designed to hold someone back and keep them in their current situation. A gift that disempowers.

A limited time only – running out after a certain period of time.

It may be that generosity is a little more complicated than we originally thought, and it takes a bit more effort to do a good job of. But, it has the potential to create significant positive outcomes for everyone involved if we can do it well.

Fade

I am amazed by the sheer amount of people that are alive in this moment. Over 7.9 billion people is impossible to imagine. It is extraordinary, and overwhelming and humbling.

Out of that 7.9 billion, how many people will know me? Dunbar’s number suggests that we don’t really have the capacity to have more than 150 meaningful relationships.

Out of that 150, how many will really do life with me? Jim Rohn said that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with.

So, not many.

How many will remember me?

Of the people who lived 100 years ago, (about 2 billion of them), I have heard of, maybe, a handful. A dozen at most, and probably the same names that you may know. The rest of them, well they might have influenced how I live but I don’t know their names or their story.

So, logic would suggest that in 100 years no one will remember me, and no one will remember you. (Sorry).

I will fade.

That’s okay.

However, what I do will have a lasting effect. Every act will create an impact.

Specifically, generous acts multiply. They grow over time as they encourage others to be generous and create ripple effects to people that you will never know in places that you will never travel to. Generosity will not fade. It will last forever.

Leave a legacy. Be generous.

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.

Don’t Work for a Charity

People often like to hear about the work that I do, and say things like,

‘It must be nice to have a purpose in what you do every day’, or

‘You must find it very rewarding’, or the almost condescending,

‘Is that your full-time role?’

The answer is ‘yes’ to all of those.

I see the longing in their eyes as they think about how amazing it would be to work in the not-for-profit world. Whilst I love it and I wouldn’t change it, here is my encouragement to you if you think that…

Don’t do it.

Not because charitable organisations are challenging places to work (which they can be), or because charitable organisations can be limited with funding to pay staff (which they can also be), but because not everyone should do it.

Here’s why you shouldn’t work for a charity. Whilst we could do with more great people who work for charities that are doing good, it is more important for the world to have more people creating amazing businesses and organisations – making as much money as they can, so they can give away as much as they can, to do the most good that they can.

Instead of working for a charity, create businesses people want to work at, that are known for their amazing culture and incredible generosity, and I guarantee that not only will you make a significant impact in the world, people will also say the same three things to you that they say to me.

In saying all of that, volunteer for a charity as much as you want.