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I have been given the gift of giving. It’s not something to brag about or take pride in. It’s not like I worked to get it or ever really paid much attention to it. Ever since I was a kid I have loved seeing what money can do – especially when it fits neatly into an opportunity. Not when I was young, but when I was in my 50’s, I became so interested in how to use it that I had a friend do an analysis of what it is about giving that makes me enjoy it. I was curious about those things that gave me a special satisfaction. In the process, he came up with three characteristics of my giving pattern and encouraged me to follow those. First, I like opportunities that are new and the chance to get in early. Sometimes I like to identify the opportunity and then find someone who will run with it. Second, I like to be involved in a way that is more than writing checks. I like having some skin in the game and a way to get engaged in an appropriate way. Third, I love introducing people to resources that will accelerate their growth or their learning. I like building their capacity is another way of saying it. Fortunately, my friend also told me what temptations face me as well. First, I am tempted to leave a project too early and assume it is well on its way. Second, I am tempted to get over-engaged and begin to steer things instead of stabilize things – to be the rudder and not the keel. Third, dumping more relationships and learning resources than can be absorbed is a trap for me.
So, unfortunately, I also have the disability of over analyzing everything and that makes me prone to put off giving until “just the right” opportunity comes along. In the same way, I also browse for small items for years before buying anything because I want it to be just exactly what I want. It’s not really procrastination as much as it is enjoying the process of looking. That’s a problem in giving. You can shop and browse and consider and weigh the pros and cons and end up putting off giving. Sometimes we need to give even when it is not a perfect match. We need to do it more than the ministry or organization needs to receive it.
A friend once put off for years making good on a gift to which he had committed. It just wasn’t the right time – ever. He thought about it constantly but could not write the check until one day he did – and that was one of the best days of his life.
There are benefits to knowing how God wired us to give but it doesn’t release us from the responsibility to give even when everything does not line up perfectly. Right now I have a couple of things that are not perfect but I know I need to give because I know what it does to me to keep waiting.Comments
Several years ago our local Chamber of Commerce brought in a renowned demographer to talk with a large group of business and civic leaders about the future impact of immigration (legal and illegal) on our community of 100,000 people. “Your community will soon experience the full force of a tsunami of brown, young, unemployed, fertile, sometimes violent, non-English speaking immigrants from the South. It is going to affect every institution and, as it has everywhere else, the economic resources of your city and region.” I raised my hand and asked him if he thought there were any opportunities or should we all move to Switzerland and wait it out? I agree it was a snide question but his bias upset me. He said his job was just reporting facts – not looking for opportunities. Afterwards, a number of us huddled and decided we would fund our own research and look for economic opportunities in the wave moving in our direction. As it turns out, over 300 Hispanic-owned businesses have been identified and grown since that day. He did us a favor.
Claudia Kolker does us another favor with her book “The Immigrant Advantage” published last year. “Now living in Houston, Kolker — who has reported for the Los Angeles Times, The Economist, The Boston Globe and theHouston Chronicle — drew on her experiences as a world traveler to focus on what traditions first-generation immigrants bring to this country. In her new book, The Immigrant Advantage, Kolker discusses more than a half-dozen practices brought from wherever different people call “the old country.” These include a Vietnamese savings club called a hui, an age-old Mexican practice of caring for a mother for 40 days after giving birth called a cuarentena and after-school study habits of Asian students.”
For me, most important is her broad look at the smart ideas that immigrants of all stripes bring to their adopted country and culture. There are many things they choose to leave behind because they are rotten practices but those they carry on make life in America better for all of us. Some of the most enduring are food customs. They live for generations when dress, language and other rituals are lost in assimilation. However, even when those things fade away they leave behind contributions that enrich everyone. The book is about good habits and traditions those last – family values, thrift, revering grandparents and their wisdom. This is not about the politics of immigration but about the net benefits of importing the strengths and customs of other cultures.Comments
I enjoy being overwhelmed by large numbers – especially about information. Knowing that last year the world’s information base is estimated to have doubled every eleven hours doesn’t keep me awake. I get relaxed by reading that 300 billion emails, 200 million tweets, and 2.5 billion text messages course through our digital networks every day. I know it bothers some of my friends – but mostly those who wonder how they are going to keep up with all of it. Who are they kidding? The glut of information is not only unprecedented but completely out of control. Links have replaced learning and we are all headed toward the abyss of unthinking.
Well, maybe not on both counts. In the latest issue of The Hedgehog Review, Chad Wellmon writes a helpful reflection titled “Why Google Isn’t Making Us Stupid…or Smart” that offers another perspective that gives me even more reasons to relax. It turns out that our information age is not unprecedented but there have been numerous information explosions in history that have all created the same concerns – and similar solutions. “Complaints about too many books gained particular urgency over the course of the eighteenth century when the book market exploded, especially in England, France, and Germany. Whereas today we imagine ourselves to be engulfed by a flood of digital data, late eighteenth-century German readers, for example, imagined themselves to have been infested by a plague of books [Bücherseuche]. Books circulated like contagions through the reading public. These anxieties corresponded to a rapid increase in new print titles in the last third of the eighteenth century, an increase of about 150 percent from 1770 to 1800 alone.” In fact , there was widespread concern that book publishing was a kind of “epidemic disease” and whereas before only the learned had published, this new technology had made is so that now “almost the very Coblers, and Women who can scarce read, are ambitious to appear in print, and then we may see them carrying their books from door to door, as a Hawker does his comb cases, pins and laces.” Philosopher Immanuel Kant complained that “such an overabundance of books encouraged people to “read a lot” and “superficially”.
How did they handle such a proliferation of publications and flood of new (and mostly useless) knowledge? Not surprisingly, they developed tools to deal with information overload that are not dissimilar to ours today. They created ways to compile, edit, condense and organize information that were genuine innovations. A whole industry of scholars writing reviews and condensations was born. Encyclopedias were created to capture as much as possible about a wide range of subjects. Journals reduced entire books to a paragraph to enable people to get the essence of something quickly. People adapted to the change and, even better, new institutions, disciplines and businesses were birthed as a result.
So, I’m back to being overwhelmed is not a bad thing. It’s not new or unique to our generation and watching the way we will adapt to it is exciting. That’s what keeps me awake at night.Comments
My mother died in 2004 and my father passed away in 2007.
It was not sudden or tragic but the end of a long life for each of them. Dad had been sick for several years and my mother had died from Parkinson’s three years before so it was not unexpected. Friends had told me that each of the children would grieve in particular ways and there was nothing that could predict how that grief would affect us. There are undoubtedly some principles of grief and some common patterns we can read about in books but our friends were right. Each of the three children had their own relationship with our parents and have settled their accounts uniquely.
It’s not the anniversary of Dad’s death or Mom’s but what started me thinking about it was this portion of the poem “In Blackwater Woods”by Mary Oliver I read this morning. A good friend posted it on Facebook and it caught me by surprise.
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Sometimes we let go and those people we loved and who loved us come back to us as if they would not let go. There is something they left unfinished in us and over the years they are still working to complete it. It’s not like being haunted. It’s not hearing dead voices in the night. It is the sense that the best of who they were (and often the part we did not know) is being lived out for them in us. In life, we carry their dreams oftentimes as a burden. When they are gone and we let go of who we thought they were, they come more fully alive through us.
I have told men who have lost their fathers that they will be sitting alone three or four years afterwards and suddenly discover traits of their fathers they thought were his alone coming to life in them. It’s more than memories. It is a kind of waking up. I know Mary Oliver is right about “when the time comes to let it go, to let it go”and I also know there is a sense of being part of a story that continues and grows with each generation.Comments
I grew up in a time in publishing where getting Billy Graham’s endorsement on a book was not exactly a guarantee of respectable sales but it was key. While his was probably not the first example of the importance of endorsement (Arthur Godfrey and Art Linkletter had already blazed the trail there), it was certainly one of the first in the evangelical world. As everyone knows, after that the power of imprimatur moved from Billy Graham to Chuck Colson, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and now Tim Keller. In fact, many books published today have several pages of endorsements from a wide variety of influential pastors, thought leaders, consultants, artists, celebrities and conference speakers. Come to think of it, the only endorsements I do not see for new books are musicians –but maybe that’s another issue. Do these endorsements from influencers still impact sales? I wonder.
An article in Forbes magazine this month would make you think it is either not what it used to be or, maybe, it never was. The publishing model on the internet has changed things.
“The old model, wherein a small number of gatekeepers controlled which cultural objects made it on to the shelves, was frustrating for those who were unable to access or impress those gatekeepers and it didn’t guarantee quality. But the gatekeepers did at least simplify the model for creators in that it narrowed down the number of people that you had to impress…Authors can publish themselves and take full advantage of the disintermediation provided by technology.”
While it is true that authors have more access to readers there remains the assumption that it is still important to find key influencers and endorsers. The Forbes article challenges even that and says, in effect, there is more access but the whole game of influence has changed. Instead of a few gatekeepers the newest research is showing that content and ideas online spread through large numbers of people sharing with small groups.
“As counter-intuitive as it may be, it’s not the influencers that you need to persuade, it’s every single individual person you talk to about it. It’s your friends, your colleagues, the strangers who follow you on Twitter. Each one of them is an important part of the network and success relies on creating something that every one of them will want to talk to their friends about. This is slightly disconcerting for anyone who has bought into the influencer model because it means that you should no longer focus your attention on wooing a handful of powerful individuals but instead need to start wooing thousands. Stories go viral when lots of people engage with their normal-sized circles to share content.”
The key then is not finding a few influencers/gatekeepers but hundreds of normal-sized circles where normal people, not spokespeople and celebrities, share with each other.
For more information about the research quoted in the Forbes article.Comments