Our church is reading a devotional guide called Practicing Extravagant Generosity by Robert Schnase. I'm supposed to be doing one reading a day, but I took it with me to Philly and had time to read the entire thing. In a reading called "First Things First" the author discusses how everyone seems to think that if they just had 20% more income, they'd be happy. Nearly everybody, rich and poor alike, seem to be reaching for "just a little" more. Mr. Schnase declares, "This is a prescription for never-ending unhappiness."
I became ill at the end of 2010. Prior to that I had a salaried position with productivity bonuses, and I worked at least one extra day in a non-contract (ie overtime) position in each pay period. In 2011, I was paid for 80 hours per pay period, my base salary, representing an overall loss of about 10% of my income. Near the end of 2011 I re-negotiated my contract to reflect my ongoing level of disability, and now I receive 80% of my base pay, nearly 30% less than my 2010 income.
My hubby and I have always been givers. We have a monthly pledge to our church, we serve spend a week each year working with the Appalachia Service Project (http://asphome.org/), we sponsor a child through Compassion International (http://www.compassion.net/), we help serve food to the needy, and we toss a few bucks in special collections when asked. Despite our declining income, we have not decreased our giving substantially (except perhaps that we have less in our pockets at any given moment that we used to LOL). I could be proud of this, except....
We could have done better. We could have given more. We were both raised in households that were lower middle class, and our parents made commitments to give 10%. Somehow, 10% of a bigger income seemed like a LOT of money, or maybe it was the "it's mine so why should I share it" mentality that creeps into our American culture - the underlying discontent that makes us compare ourselves to "The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and feel that we come up lacking somehow.
But Schnase suggests that "(b)y provoking us to give, God is not trying to take something away from us; God is seeking to give something to us." Redefining our priorities allows us to become free of material concerns.
We've seen this, this year. We've had to redefine for ourselves what matters. Nothing that we've had to give up in the budget matters. Nothing. And we've been the recipients of so many heart-felt gifts from others (not the least of which was Babygirl's new kidney!) that I could truly cry for joy for it all.
And the most interesting thing about this, to me, is that because of the drop in income, we are now approaching giving 10% of our take-home pay. And we are making a commitment to increase to that point, with an aim, over the next few years, to hit 10% of the total.
Over lunch today, Hubby suddenly asked me, "What would have happened to Babygirl if she weren't with us?" The answer is simple: "She'd be dead." The same is likely true for Curlygirl. It's the truth for hundreds of thousands and more kids all over the world. Starvation, disease, lack of clean water - these things kill as many as half of the children under 5 in developing countries.
Our next step toward closing the gap in giving will be to sponsor another child. Our current Compassion kid, Dinah, has been part of our family for nearly 5 years. It's time to adopt another.
Hubby and I have learned the hard way that you can't save them all. But we can save one more. And if even half of the people who read this save one too? That would be Extravagant Generosity indeed. Visit http://www.compassion.net/ and see if someone there is calling for your help.