Last spring, a couple of newspapers coined the acronym YAWNs - young and wealthy but normal - to describe people who live below their means, who consider their environmental impact in lifestyle decisions, who care about their neighbors, who donate to charity and who embrace experiences over things. Objecting to the boring nickname, Arduous created contest and asked people to weigh in with alternative acronyms.
My husband came up with APLS - Affluent Persons Living Sustainably - and won the prize ($50 donated to a charity of his choice) when most of the commenters voted for his entry. Within hours of announcing the acronym and unveiling the Green Apple design, I found myself having to defend A for Affluent.
In all honesty, I had never thought about affluence. The benefits and privileges I had enjoyed never crossed my mind and played no role in my "greener" lifestyle. What happened beyond our country's borders? Or my place in the world? I didn't think about it much.
Suddenly, in standing behind APLS, I found myself thinking about affluence alot. About the fact that I am globally and decidedly rich. The fact that that wealth - consisting, in part, of the schools I've attended, the library I frequent, the paved roads I drive, the roof over my head, the Internet connection I use - confers a responsibility to use affluence for good.
After all that thinking, I re-adopted an old habit - one that had I followed as a college student when my income consisted of loans and humanities coffee bar tips. I started tithing again.
Tithing is a practice of donating a portion of your income weekly or monthly. It is often encountered in the form of donations to a Christian church though I have always done it in a secular setting. I first encountered the idea years ago in a book about creating positive energy in one's life. The book argued that we should not hold on too tightly to money, things or time and that, instead, we should share our abundance. Great things happen when we let go, when we give of ourselves or our paychecks.
And so, I committed in college to donate a percentage of my income. I believe it was only one percent but that one percent made a difference. Back then, I donated mostly to environmental organizations. This summer, I've re-embraced the commitment, this time, to donate regularly to organizations that are somehow greater than myself, such as Goods 4 Girls and Central Asia Institute, to my child's school, to political campaigns and to others who seem to need the money more than I. It doesn't matter, really, where the money goes so long as it is to a place that I believe in.
It is not much money. But it will do much good. Whatever side we come out on in the APLS Affluence debate, I think we can all spare a small percentage of our income, a couple dollars a month or, if not money, a few hours of our time. It is time to embrace our abundance by letting it go. It is time for tithing.