I sit on the Stewardship Committee at church. I guess when you raise money as part of your job, it’s likely you’ll get tapped to try to do the same at church. I think I’m probably more successful at this task when my livelihood is dependent upon my success.
Between Stewardship season at church and watching the Republicans and Democrats endlessly hash it out over the middle class, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about my financial situation. I’m not sure what distinguishes middle from upper class. If I had to classify myself, I’d say I’m probably upper middle class, although it doesn’t always feel that way.
When I graduated from college, my first job paid $18,300 per year. I lived on that and was actually quite happy. I did pretty much whatever I wanted and even socked away $25 per paycheck toward my retirement. I’m not sure I was really giving much money away at that time in my life. I was pretty much just concerned with me. I think there are a lot of people out there like that.
My dad was a Baptist minister. He gave ‘til it hurt and required us to do the same. When my allowance was .50, I was expected to send a nickel of that booty to the church. Each week I’d count out my loot, I was a saver. I’d add in the .50 to my net worth and then subtract the nickel that was being forcibly extracted from my hand.
Although I didn’t like to see my piggy bank balance decline, I did sort of like filling out the envelope and tossing it into the offering plate. I was only a boy, but giving made me feel like a man.
And so today I ponder. I make exponentially more than I did when I was 5 and considerably more than when I was 22. Does my current giving make me feel like a man or like a heel? Do I feel obligated to write that monthly check, or am I giving with a cheerful heart?
A friend of mine recently said that she felt like giving ought to hurt a little. If it’s too easy to make your gift, perhaps you’re not doing enough. If you don’t have to think about your charitable giving as a line item in your budget, maybe you’re thinking a bit too much about yourself. Most of us wouldn’t sign a mortgage without considering how it fits into our monthly income. I think philanthropic giving should be the same.
Learning to give is a journey, and I’ve got a long way to go. There are a lot of people out there who need my help. It wouldn’t hurt me one bit to cut out a night or two of eating out each month or take one less trip to Joseph Banks never-ending buy one get two free sales.
Maybe if I did, I’d be more of a man.