Recently, my wife and I have been doing pretty well for ourselves. We aren’t what most people consider rich (although, by the world’s standard’s I am rich), but we do have a few extra dollars to truly enjoy ourselves. We are no longer forced to wait 6 months for a movie to come out on video because we can’t afford a night out on the town. We can now afford to visit both of our families within the same year and not pay for it later. This is a nice feeling to have, until the guilt kicks in.
We’ve always dreamed of living a life that is different from the American Dream. We don’t want a mansion or nice cars, but what we really want is to make a difference. While we’ve had to give up on some of our dreams, we still hope to make a positive difference in this world. We may not lead the next revolution and break systems of injustice, but we genuinely do care about the world.
That’s why the other day my wife came to me and said we need to give more. She wasn’t talking about giving away all our wealth, but she was talking about caring about other people before our selfish desires. Right when I thought we were finally starting to enjoy ourselves, she drops this self-righteous bomb on me.
If I am honest with myself, I can’t help but think two things when she brings this up.
- This means we won’t be able to enjoy ourselves as much.
- She’s absolutely right.
Once I let myself process it a bit more, I realized that we do need to give more and that’s when the question really began to hit me: How Should we Give? What’s the best way to give?
You may think I am a bit extreme, but I love to analyze things. Some may say OVER-ANALYZE. Here’s the issue: I love to make sure that I am making the best choice possible. This applies to this situation of giving. I could easily give more money in the offering plate each week at church, but is that really making a difference, or am I just making myself feel better? I think when we are honest with ourselves, most of us give just to feel good. We didn’t want to make our gift another one of those, so we decided to talk about what’s the most effective use of our money. We don’t have a lot of money, so we wanted to make sure it counted for something.
Qualities of an Effective Gift
After much discussion, we realized that a gift that is really going to make a difference should have these qualities:
- Sustainability - The most important thing for us is sustainability. We’ve seen “band-aid fixes” too often in our lives. People can give poor people money all they want, but if they don’t give them a way to earn money for themselves, it won’t make a difference. Sure, it might provide them with a nice dinner tomorrow, but if they have any hope of feeding themselves tomorrow, they are going to need something that’s sustainable. It’s similar to the idea of teaching someone to fish instead of giving them a fish.
- Affordable Enough to Give Now – While we would love to provide a well for a community in Africa or something that would REALLY make a difference for a LOT of people, we’re not foolish enough to believe we can afford that. We recognize this and yet we still want to give now. We don’t want to wait to give 3 years from now because who knows what excuses we will come up to justify spending that money on ourselves. This is the reason, we wanted to be able to give now – so we can make it a habit before we forget about it.
- Most Bang For Our Buck – This expression may be dying out, but we really wanted to get the most return for our investment. That’s how we see it. We see giving as an investment in making the world a better place. While there are multiple ways to give a sustainable gift, we wanted one that would give the highest return.
What Did we Decide?
While I don’t want to limit my readers to thinking this is always the best choice for anyone, I do want to share what we decided on for last month. We decided to give a goat via Heifer International. It’s a well-known organization and giving a goal has several benefits:
- Ability to thrive in extreme climates – In other words, less risk for our investment.
- Provide Quarts of Milk a Day – This can be a great way to provide food for the family or a source of income
- Manure for Fertilizer – Not only do they get food from the milk, but the ability to grow crops
- Children – Goats can have 2-3 kids per year, meaning either exponential source of food/manure or more money by selling the children.
Readers, what goes into your decisions when you decide to give?