Thursday, September 18, 2008

Time for Tithing

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.


Alana said...

Love the idea. I tmakes you feel better about the use of your money, no matter how much or little.
It's also a whole lot better to spend $50 bucks on a good cause rather than buying the latest tendy item.

Electronic Goose said...

"It's time to embrace our abundance by letting go." Beautiful.

Joyce said...

Good for you! Tithing is acting in the opposite spirit of greed, breaking the grip that greed has on you.

One of the first financial decisions Mike and I made when we married was to tithe. At the time our income was a whopping $14,000! But we've always done it, and always felt blessed by the decision, even though it was certainly a sacrifice at times. We spent several years living below the poverty level (with children) and were still able to do it. If all Americans did this, I'm convinced we could solve world hunger.

Donna said...

You've hit on something really powerful here. When you tithe, what you have left seems to go farther than if you had kept the whole thing. I think that's partially because of the attitude you have to have to give something away. The part you give away grows, too, and becomes much more than it would have been if you'd kept it. Amazing.

Bobbi said...

Amen to that, girl!

CindyW said...

Like everything in my life, my giving has been rather inconsistent - some years better than others, all depending on my impulse :)

Your idea is great. I should just allocate x% of my income to giving and then decide who/what to give to.

Now I feel all grown up and mature.

knutty knitter said...

I'm sorry I've missed so much over the past week or so. However my computer woes are now fixed and I've given windows the old heave ho. Linux is great!

For myself, I've always given and got on a regular basis anyhow and very little of this has been actual cash mostly because we don't have much actual cash. However so far this month we have loaned a bread maker and received the use of a bike, given several hours of computer servicing and received some home cooking and some cash, given a pair of ballet shoes and some clothes and passed on various bits of local knowledge.

It's called community living and I've always been grateful to live in places where this is alive and well.

I would tithe if there was anything to tithe with but at present the bank says there is about 20 dollars left till next thursday so I'll stick to giving time and help for now.

viv in nz

Green Bean said...

Alana: Absolutely! And it is amazing how far your money can go. In Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson set up schools for $12k a pop. Now I can't afford to donate anywhere near that much but every drop in the bucket counts and if we all put a little in, suddenly we've solved some really major problems.

Goose: Thank you! :)

Joyce: I love that you have always done it - regardless of income. It is really empowering and, I'm with you, I think we could solve world hunger if we all did this.

Donna: How wonderfully you summed up what it is to tithe. You feel better, your life is better, your money goes farther - both what you've kept and what you've given.

Bobbi: :)

Cindy: Hey Miss Maturity! I agree. If I don't allocate a certain percentage, I tend to not be consistent. I usually just know what that amount is per paycheck and make the donations then.

Viv: Hi! Welcome back from the land of technical nightmares. :) Giving time and help totally counts. I've been volunteering in my son's classroom and it is so rewarding - for me, for the kids who have another adult and for the teacher who has a moment to breath and the opportunity to spend more time per student.

Going Crunchy said...

And hooray for you! I think that we actually get back more then we give when we tithe.

We use a "sharing fish" several times a year in our house and give coins to it before we eat. I think this directly links the concept of food affluece to others that aren't as blessed.

rhonda jean said...

I believe that generosity and kindness are a big part of the green lifestyle. For the past few years I've been working two days a week at my local neighbourhood centre. We look after the disadvantaged and homeless, we give food and support. We also teach permaculture gardening in our backyard, budgeting classes, as well as living on less and finding joy in that. It's one of the most enriching things I've ever done.

Well done on your tithing.

Green Bean said...

Crunchy: I LOVE the idea of the sharing fish. It gets kids in on the action and highlights how much food we have. What a great idea.

Rhonda: I never thought about it in such a simple statement but you are right. Giving is a huge part of being green. It's a cycle. We take so much and the greener we live the more we realize that we want to give back.

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