August 28th, 2014
Moving Past Fear: Imagining What’s Possible With Your Giving
Paradox runs through the middle of my life, especially as I work with wealth. My roots lie deep in West Texas natural gas fields, yet I am committed to sustainable, resources. I was born with white skin and worked for fifteen years as a physical therapist but didn’t fully land in my own body—or become aware of my whiteness—until middle age.
In the early 1990s, I expanded the boundaries of my work to include aligning my money with my heart. This led to an exploration of social justice, faith and a longing for cross-class conversations and relationships.
I married my high school sweetheart, Howard, and we’d known that an inheritance was coming and had prepared for it for years. We knew we were financially secure. You might have thought we'd have been ready when the inheritance came - but no!
When my family’s financial inheritance was passed to me in 2001, Howard and I gave a quarter of it away, about $400,000. As a Christian I’d asked myself, “How does my faith guide our use of money in the middle of this world of need and injustice?" Giving away boldly made me feel like I was in full integrity with my values. But, after that initial gifting, Howard was nervous about continuing to give at the speed I was drawn to. When I found it almost impossible to listen to his point of view, I realized I’d become addicted to “saving” organizations in a big way. At the same time, I was also trying to appease my guilt of having “too much” through giving. Humbled, we both decided to stop making donations for six months to reflect deeply on what felt right. By working together, Howard and I found something far wiser than either of our entrenched positions.
At the end of our giving sabbatical, we found a place where we both felt clear and in agreement—we would give boldly from our income, keeping an amount needed for our expenses. In 2006, that translated to giving away to 50% of our income.
Our most satisfying giving has been to a friend, Alease Bess, from North Carolina, where my ancestors were slave owners and her ancestors were slaves. Her ministry, Community Wholeness Venture, supports activists and busy people to experience right relationship with God, self and others through a multi-pronged approach of financial training, spiritual healing, self care, leadership training and personal growth.
By moving through our fears and trusting in Spirit, something priceless has been given to Alease, Howard and me: mutual teaching, friendship, and spiritual gifts. Our relationship has sustained us through the transition when our giving dropped due to our income plummeting in 2009.
In addition, I continued to seek out partnerships across the big topics of race, class and gender. Quickly, however, I realized that something was happening in me in the midst of several cross class/race conversations that inhibited my full participation.
For support and training, I looked to two organizations for help. Support for waking up to the intersection of faith and money—and discovering that the point that had felt so full of tension was actually a place of spiritual transformation—was/is powerfully supported by Harvest Time. Support for waking up to myself outside of the “distress of my own oppression” in the midst of a diverse community, learning how to “listen to others in a present and conscious state” and practicing “building effective relationships and sustaining true alliances” (the Be Present Empowerment Model) was/is possible through ongoing training and leadership within Be Present, Inc.
In addition, I had my own journey to walk. Wanting to wake up to the many ways my thoughts and actions had been influenced by assumptions and internalized skewed societal values, I looked back at my life and the world around me with new eyes.
By weaving together my own story of waking up to the big topics, snippets of my ancestor’s experiences and tidbits of history that were in contrast to what I’d learned in school, I wrote the Nautilus Silver Metal book Big Topics at Midnight: A Texas Girl Wakes Up to Race, Class, Gender and Herself . This has become a springboard to open up conversations about the exhilarating and terrifying process of waking up to our place in a global world.