Heart to Give

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Can You Give away $4500?

That's the question that I had to answer "Yes" to before I decided to start this journey. I was given the opportunity to be part of the Leukemia Society of Ameria's Team in Training program and help raise $4500. The "catch" was if I fell short of meeting this goal, I would have to make up the difference out of my own pocket. In the ended I far exceeded my goals. I truly believe that the willingness to fully commit and risk giving up a lot of my money for a good cause is largely responsible for my success. I also acknowledge all money that was raised were outright gifts. I didn't earn or deserve the generosity, but just remained so greatful for anything I got. I tried to remain non-judgemental, having no expectations of how successful I would be. I always remained prepared and willing to accept any outcome. I simply emphasized enjoying talking and meeting people about what I was doing regardless of whether or not they donated. And somehow it seems that the very moment that I was willing to graciously accept the worst, things started to exceed the best. Seemingly by magic!

I wouldn't say I could have afforded to give away $4500! I've recently climbed out of some large credit card debt and would really like to pay off some school loans. I could pay off some retirement loans. I could be saving to purchase a home. Having to personally pay a few thousand dollars myself would certainly set me back. But it was something I needed to risk.

I'd say that over the past few years I've been put into trying situations where I've let go of money in numbers much larger than I could afford. When those I've loved needed thousands of dollars, I took a gulp, thought about it and then gave. And when someone was desparate for money I reached deep down and borrowed against my credit card. I drained my savings, borrowed against all my retirement, and maxed out my credit cards. It completely boggles my mind, when I look back into how much money I've given up over the past several years. But despite all the money I've given up, somehow, somehow I've found a way to slowly just get enough to become solvent. I've always been pushed past what I thought was my limit, but have never been truly broken.

It used to be that I'd get bitter when I looked at where I could have been financially. But, now I'm thankful that I've started to learn the skill of letting go. It's the skill to say, so what. The worst that can ever happen is that I'm broke and have to start over. I'm still alive. I'm still loved and have people I love.

As of May 4th, 2000 I was stunned to get a note from the Leukemia Society of America that I met my goal. This was surprising especially since I was holding onto several hundred dollars in additional donations from probably 50 different people! Back around February, 2000 I thought about how I was going to manage personally funding most of the $4500. I knew that there was an unofficial deadline to reach my goal by April. It's true that I could have QUIT before the April deadline imposed by the Leukemia Society. However, if I quit at any time I would been left so unfulfilled. Then I'd be asking "now what" in my life. I would have regretted quitting.

I would not have regretted paying for most of my goal amount. The name WAKUNDAMA stands for full commitment and a life long journey. If I'd ever quit then that journey would have stopped. My heart had said from the start that this was the beginning step of the quest that I must go through. If I must sacrifice thousands yet again, then so be it. And when I thought this way it suddenly made me rest easier.

Many religions talk of finding happiness and salvation in the midst of poverty. Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Jesus Christ to name a few are examples of extreme humility and self sacrifice.  This is the epitome of anti-materialism.

It has been said that money doesn't guarantee happiness, but that no money does guarantee unhappiness.  At the same time the Bible talks of giving up material wealth; it talks of God rewarding those with endless bounty and riches.  Religions talk of being showered by endless wealth with most of us daring to only extend a thimble to collect it.  Yet it hardly seems that the endless bounty they meant was luxury cars, fabulous vacations, and fancy homes.

It's not that I'm countering the luxeries of life. It's just that the prized material things in your life become wealth as a result of much more powerful things that move us as humans. These things make up true wealth. Susan Ormand, a popular financial advisor, says to focus on people first, then money, and then material things last to become financially successful in life. Others have said it in simpler terms to focus on genuinely caring about and creating success in people and the money and things will follow.

I think the issue of giving and how much to give is not so much an issue of the quantity you give, but more the sensitivity of your heart that enables you to give without reservation.  Ask yourself under what conditions can you give away all your belongings? 

I believe in existence beyond physical death.  At death you must let go of all your material wealth.  So what will you take with you?  I believe the only thing you can take after death are the warm memories collected in your heart of how you listened and followed your heart, of how you did what you thought was the right thing, of how you thought about you and not what others thought about you. I believe that being successful is not so much about your accomplishments but rather how many and how deeply you were able to touch others and others were able to touch you.

I'm challenged to think about giving just a little more.  Each time it gets easier and the fear of not having enough diminishes.  I find myself envying and craving less, and being happy for the successes of others.  I no longer crave more dollars as much as I crave more time and freedom to spend time with those I love.

I still dream of someday being able to take a nice vacation with my wife, having kids or owning a house. Sometimes, it makes me sad that this may never happen. But, then when I look at myself in the mirror everyday, I see a person that I'm so proud of doing so much, enduring so much, and asking for so little in return. When I look in the mirror I feel such great love and pride for that person in the mirror that I can only smile.

"You can never do great things here on Earth. You can only do little things with great Love" ...

Mother Teresa