Toward a Joyful “Yes” – Part 1

Toward a Joyful “Yes” – Part 1

by Carol Froom

A fundraising mentor of mine once said that my goal for encouraging generosity was simply “to guide people towards a joyful ‘yes.’” That has stayed with me over the years as I’ve had the privilege of leading efforts for Christian humanitarian organizations, including ERDO, that have helped raise millions of dollars to change lives around the world. Generosity is not a natural mindset for many people in North America. As I’ve learned, church attendees are no exception.

I always knew when the messages on tithes, offerings or giving were on at church. Quite often, half of the church’s attendees suddenly had some other place they needed to be. Why is it so difficult to be generous, or even to talk about the topic?

The North American cultural shift from “we” to “me”
Turn on your television and you’ll find programs about people who hoard goods, or you’ll hear an interior designer say, “I spent one million dollars on that room, and it was worth every penny.” Every day we are bombarded with advertising messages telling us what we need in order to be more popular, attractive and successful. Advertising and social norms are pointing people toward thinking it’s normal to spend more money on themselves—from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Consider closet space in newer homes. Older homes had ample closet space for most families, but now homes need closets the size of bedrooms, and people need double or triple garages to accommodate all their “stuff.” And when we can’t stuff any more of our stuff into our houses, we turn to rental units. According to an August 2012 article from The Economist, one U.S. family in 10 uses a storage unit.1 In the U.K., according to the same article, the number of storage facilities used grew by eight per cent in one year.2 We’ve begun to cling more to our fortunes and less to the idea that our capacity for generosity could increase if we do more with less.

Lessons learned from those who give: Kim Mee

My friend, Kim Mee, is one of the most fun and generous people I know. Any need that comes her way is given serious concern, lifted up in prayer, and considered as far as her personal involvement. Not being generous is an uncomfortable state for her. Kim Mee doesn’t have financial resources that compare in any way with people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet since she earns her income running a small Christian daycare from her home. Her philosophy is simple. Having grown up in a very large Malaysian family with no mother and few financial resources, she sees the financial blessings in her life as a direct blessing from God that is not to be held on to if she encounters a situation where she can make a difference. If a friend has a need or a cause calls for leaders or helpers, she tosses and turns until she can prayerfully discern a way to help. Kim Mee loves the Lord and loves to give.

The women of Vembar, Tamil Nadu, India

Sometimes generosity appears where and when you least expect it. My work-related travel once took me to South India, where I visited communities that were basically wiped out by the tsunami of December 26, 2004. They were four years into the process of rebuilding their livelihoods, but poverty was still rampant. I soon found that women in the community had a really hard time understanding my blond hair. I’d be walking among villagers and engaging in a professional conversation about sustainable food production when some new set of fingers would reach out, gently touch me, and then disappear.

After the walkabout, we sat on woven mats to listen to elders talk about the impact of the project. Through the translator, we learned more about the deaths and destruction that hit the area, and how the recovery from homelessness, hunger and poverty was slow.

As I listened under the blazing sun, I got too hot and discreetly tried to put my hair up in order to cool down. My small problem was that I didn’t have elastics, so I was quietly twisting my hair and trying to tuck it under with no success. A buzz started among the women, and there was a mild disturbance as the elders tried to speak. Within a few minutes, a woman appeared and reached out to my hair again, this time wrapping it in an elastic she’d found and meeting my gaze with a smile. These were women struggling with poverty. I was a stranger, and they took me in and served my need from their limited resources—with a smile. That was generosity.

The children of Tamale, Ghana

Filming in extreme heat for 12 or more hours at a time was normal during many of my trips in order to document people’s stories and inspire others to give. To sustain our energy, our crew would take a packed lunch and drinks to keep us going until dinner. Usually, our drivers would pull the midday meal out of the truck and place it in an empty schoolroom for us to eat during a natural break in the interviews. Two things would happen at that point: great masses of children would gather around the windows of the schoolroom, and I would feel guilty for the provision of the rice and vegetables when the children were most likely not going to have anything to eat.

I was hungry and thirsty myself, but a greater hunger was literally staring me in the face, and to ignore it was not an option. After a few spoons for myself, I would hand the box out the window to one of the waiting children. Rather than that child’s taking off and hoarding the food, something else would happen—an incredible expression of generosity. Sitting down, other children would join in a circle and the food would be put at the centre. In a very organized fashion, all of the food was shared and enjoyed. Even the bottles of water were shared among the children.

By birth, I was placed into a North American home of comfort and provision. By employment, I was exposed to people who constantly face extreme hunger and thirst. And by witnessing hungry children share their food selflessly, I saw extreme generosity.

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Read the second part of the chapter here. This article is an excerpt of a chapter that appeared in Generosity Changes Everything – Even Us (Mississauga, ON: The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, January 2014). © 2014 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Carol Froom is the director of resource development for ERDO (Emergency Relief and Development Overseas). To order this book, click here or call 905-542-7400 ext. 3223. Photo © istockphoto.com

1.“The economics of self-storage, The golden hoard,” The Economist, August 18, 2012, http://www.economist.com/node/21560602.

2. Ibid.

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