This book, by Hannah & Kevin Salwen, tells the story of a family who decided to “stop taking and start giving back”. Spurred to “help people” by their teenage daughter, the family decided to make “giving” a family activity. One event led to another until they decided to sell their home and give half the income away. That’s when things get interesting, tense, and miraculous.
I really enjoyed watching the growth of the individuals, and the family as a group, as they learned how to give. This family teaches, by their own mistakes, the value of giving wisely and for the long-term good of the people being served. They are honest about their disappointments and frustrations. They reveal how their motives changed from self-centered to other-centered – and how that process doesn’t always feel good. But they also reveal the great reward of doing “charity” right.
And I must confess that I took special interest in their work within Ghana. It was fun for me to recognize towns, foods, and events as they described their visit to that West African country.
I strongly recommend this book for family reading. Who knows what your family may do as a result?
I recently read a book by CS Lewis titled Surprised By Joy. It was different from any other CS Lewis book I’ve read, more of a biography really. Starting with his childhood, he journeyed through his life, and I read with interest as he moved from Christian to atheist to deist and back to Christian. Like all his nonfiction work, I was bobbing just at the surface of comprehension most of the time. Several concepts caused me to reread the same pages several times hoping his thought process would sink through my dullness. One of his many thought-provoking concepts is the topic of this post.
He helped me see there is a difference between being selfish and being self-centered. Both have a central focus of self, but selfishness does so to the exclusion of other people’s needs or longings. Selfishness has no conscience. Selfishness has no problem using others for the good of self. However, being self-centered still allows for acts of service to others and cringes at even the thought of hurting them. Yet the person who is self-centered expects a payoff – they want to feel good about their service. They may distance themselves from specific acts of charity, even if it truly helps others, if it leaves them unfulfilled. Self-centered people may also find it necessary to receive acclaim or recognition for their generosity of time, talent, or treasure.
Both situations can be modeled by whirlwinds. Self-centered people spin about expelling charity to others, but their energy to give depends upon what self-satisfaction can be vacuumed into their vortex. On the other hand, selfishness is a whirlwind that only captures. It never releases what it takes, and it can never take in enough.
I honestly don’t know where my heart lands between these two attitudes. I want to think I’m closer to self-centered, but I can easily catch myself being selfish. I’m less selfish today than I was five years ago. I’m making progress, and I take comfort in that fact. Honestly, sometimes I have fleeting moments selflessness. As crazy as it sounds, all three of these seem to inhabit me. Regardless, the distance to where I want to be (selflessness) seems far away. I’m pretty sure I’ll run out of time before I fully arrive there.
I trust some of you CS Lewis fans will have your opinions on what he meant on this topic. I want to read those opinions. These are just the thoughts that came to me from the reading.