It was mid-morning when I found Mamadou Traoré at his restaurant, a six-foot-square plywood kiosk painted baby blue, its shutters propped open with sticks, bar stools lined up at the window. His eyelids were drooping, and he was falling off his chair. He had worked all night selling omelettes and glasses of sticky-sweet Nescafé. In West Africa during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink all day, nights are good for business.
We hadn’t seen each other in four years.
I sat on a bar stool while he stirred sweetened condensed milk into a glass of coffee for me. He set a square plywood coaster over the mouth to keep out the flies and took out his cellphone to snap a photo. “Now all my customers will believe me when I tell them I have a white friend.” Continue reading The Way We Give→
Even though it’s been a few years since my kids were in school, our household still settles into new routines in the fall. My wife and I sit down in September and fill out the calendar with our various commitments. While this activity has the potential to feel overwhelming, I’ve found that it readies us for the year ahead. When new opportunities arise at work or in the community, we can be ready to say “yes” if it fits into our schedule. Continue reading A Generosity Mindset→
Across the country, churches have stopped meeting, school has been cancelled, and non-essential businesses have implemented modified operating conditions or closed completely. Although everyone wants to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Canadians are unaccustomed to being confined to our homes (many of which have become simultaneous offices, playgrounds, classrooms, and nurseries).
For Alain Reimer, learning to be generous started when he was a child. “We were taught that giving was just a part of life,” he says of what his parents told their children.
On Sundays, when the family attended church, he remembers being given money to put in the Sunday school offering. “If we had something, we shared it,” he says. “Seeing my parents and grandparents always being generous was extremely influential . . . it absolutely ingrained a spirit of generosity in me.”
His parents also emphasized the importance of service; when he was in high school Alain’s family spent a Christmas break in Mexico building a house for a family in need. “That was my first experience with poverty, and it really taught me that not everyone in the world gets to live the way we do,” he says. “It really gave me a desire to give.”
Alain’s wife, Emily, had a similar experience growing up when her family spent a spring break in New Orleans rebuilding houses affected by Hurricane Katrina. “I loved being able to help in that way,” she says.
Their experiences filled the two with gratitude for what they have—and a conviction to help those in need. So, when the southern Manitoba couple married, they made a commitment to live generously.
To help guide their decision, the Reimers opened a donor-advised fund, called a Flexible Gifting Account, with Abundance Canada. Through the account, the Reimers automatically deposit a portion of each pay-cheque every month.
They receive regular statements and a charitable tax receipt for funds added to their account. They can give immediately through it, or at another time, to any charity of their choosing. “I always had in my head that I wanted to have a bank account where I could put a portion of a pay-cheque away for charity,” Alain says. “It was exactly what I’d been dreaming of.”
Recently, the Reimers had an opportunity to travel to Haiti and visit some of the areas where they had contributed to reconstruction efforts. “Seeing the impact on the people we’ve given to have brought us so much joy,” says Emily. “The results of our generosity brought us more joy than we would have ever gotten out of that money had we spent it on ourselves.”
A year ago the Reimers welcomed their first child; they want to pass on the same values for giving that they were taught. “We want to live in such a way that our kids see us worrying more about others than ourselves,” Alain says.
“Generosity doesn’t just happen—it is learned and strengthened through practice,” says Brad Friesen, a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada. With a flexible gifting account, donors can be strategic about their charitable giving, he explains.
“Whether it’s immediate, a long-term gift throughout a lifetime or potentially a legacy gift in an estate, it’s the donor that advises the timing and the charities they wish to support,” he says. As well, he adds, it’s a practical way for families to model generosity to future generations.
“As children grow, parents can involve their children in the charitable decision-making process, giving them an opportunity to take part and see the benefits of giving,” he shares. “Gifting accounts are an excellent way to make sure the whole family is engaged in learning about and practising generosity.”
With offices in Kitchener, Winnipeg, Calgary and Abbotsford, Abundance Canada is a donor-advised public foundation that enables Canadians to achieve their generosity goals though services such as flexible gifting accounts. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For many years my wife and I raised our family in an older community with many beautiful boulevard trees, but very few young families. Despite our best efforts, our neighbours were aloof and at times confrontational, but we loved our little home and the family we were building there. Last summer, we made the big decision to move.
Although it’s a short distance away from the old house, our new neighbourhood is completely different. The week we moved in, neighbours came out of their houses to welcome us to the community. People passing by stopped to chat. We found ourselves surrounded by families with children eager to welcome new kids into their games. It wasn’t just a surface friendliness that wore off once we got settled; over the past year, we have been blown away by the kindness and generosity of our neighbours.
This football season, my son ran home from a playdate excited that our neighbours had offered us two tickets to the CFL game that evening. We love sports and the game was starting right away. My wife and I quickly discussed the logistics and sent my son back out to let the family know he and I would love to join them. Unfortunately, we had taken a bit too long and they were already driving away. My son broke into tears of disappointment.
Reaching for my cell, I called them and they assured us the tickets were ours if we could get to the game. Meanwhile, the retired couple from across the street had noticed the commotion of us trying to flag down the departing vehicle and quickly offered to drive us to the stadium so we wouldn’t have to worry about parking. I was amazed! What a gift! My son and I enjoyed the game immensely thanks to the generosity of our neighbours.
Thinking of my new neighbourhood, I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark’s Gospel “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12: 31). Our neighbourhood has become a practical model of this commandment for our children, and we have found the generosity around us is contagious. It fills me with joy when I see my children emulating the kindness they see around them.
Shortly after we moved in, our nine-year-old announced he’d invited some neighbourhood kids over for dinner. My wife and I encouraged him to invite their parents as well, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner getting to know them. Another time, our son invited some of the neighbourhood boys over to play video games, and before we knew it we had a houseful of kids playing and sharing a meal together.
We’ve had more neighbours over for brunch and dinner in the past year than we did in the previous ten years in our old neighbourhood. For a school fundraiser, we bought two cases of apples, and my wife made apple pies that the kids and I delivered to some of our neighbours. In the winter, we shovel the driveway for a single mom down the street and help mow her lawn in the spring. It doesn’t feel like hard work, either. In fact, there is an atmosphere of easy joy about it.
I see this same joy when I am helping clients plan their giving using Abundance Canada services, and I feel so privileged to assist in their generosity journeys. I have always been delighted by the connection I see between generous living and generous giving among my clients. Since our family move, this connection has become even clearer to me. Each day, my new neighbourhood teaches me that it really is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And we have been blessed so richly.
Kevin Davidson is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada, serving generous people in Calgary and across Alberta. Abundance Canada is a 100% donor advised, faith-based organization and the solution for charitable giving in your lifetime and with your estate. Visit http://www.abundance.ca to learn more about our services or call 1.800.772.3357 today to arrange to meet with a Gift Planning Consultant in your area.
My father Russell Koch is a very innovative man. Thirty-three years ago he started a silo repair business. One of the reasons he is a successful entrepreneur is that he finds solutions to his clients’ problems, even if the requests are out of the ordinary.
A couple of years ago my dad had the opportunity to be innovative and use some of the spare silo materials he had stored. For many years his cousin Lloyd and his wife Earla have been involved in improving the Shirati KMT Hospital facilities in Tanzania.
In 2010 they started to search for solutions to the hospital’s water storage problem. The hospital pumped water in from nearby Lake Victoria, but their water tank was in poor shape and constantly leaked. In 2015, Lloyd approached my dad to help them repair the existing tank.
My dad thought it would be better to build a new tank. He had the parts of a Harvestore silo that, in his mind, could be a great solution to their water problem. He discussed the idea with Lloyd, and a new project was born. My dad donated the silo and booked a trip to Shirati.
My mom Hazel got involved as well. A container was rented to ship the silo parts to Tanzania and since there was extra space they, along with friends, family and church members donated items for the hospital and surrounding communities. While my dad built the water tank, my mom gave sewing lessons to women from the area and helped distribute the donated layettes, clothing, toiletries, and school supplies.
When my parents came home, their excitement and joy were clear to see. They told us how happy the hospital staff were to have enough water for their daily needs. My dad loved working with the people of Shirati who helped build the tank. “To be there, working side-by-side with such great people, there’s nothing that compares with that,” my dad exclaimed.
Their experience made me think of Acts 20:35, “And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (NLT).
Columnist Sharon Salzberg writes, “Generosity generates its power from the gesture of letting go. Being able to give to others shows us our ability to let go of attachments that otherwise can limit our beliefs and our experiences . . . [and we can] carry ourselves to a state of greater freedom. In short, being able to step outside of oneself and give is an essential ingredient for happiness” (The Real Power of Generosity, http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-real-power-of-generosity).
Lloyd had mentioned the needs of Shirati to my parents two years previously, but my dad wasn’t interested. Once he went, however, the experience changed him. It impacted him so much he went back the next year for six weeks to help them build a new intensive care unit. My parents have a newfound passion for the people in Shirati. They stay in touch and are dedicated to supporting the community financially.
The fear of not having enough might be holding us back from being generous. Instead of giving, we can be prone to hold onto things to try to find happiness, but the Bible reveals that real joy is found in being generous. It may not make sense that giving up something that is precious to us (our money, our possessions, our time) can bring us joy. Yet experiences like that of my parents prove that it is true; that generosity is not only beneficial to the recipient but also provides joy to the giver.
Perhaps you’ve heard this message many times but haven’t tried it for yourself. Give generosity a try, and, without any obligation, let Abundance Canada help!
Wendy Helgerman is the Communications Specialist at Abundance Canada. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, call 1.800.772.3257 or visit abundance.ca.
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow….Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).
You likely know people who must have a plan in order to complete, or even start, a project. The Internet is filled with articles about why we should have a plan to do almost anything. A plan clarifies priorities, helps you achieve balance, gives you the strength to say “no” to lesser things, helps you avoid mistakes and envision a better future. These are good things! Planning can be very beneficial, but it can also be intimidating.
In his book, Rework, Jason Fried says, “Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control. Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses.” It’s true. We can spend a lot of time listing goals and designing strategies, but even with the best planning and intentions, there are no guarantees that our efforts will work as we want them to. The problem with planning, Fried continues, is that “plans are inconsistent with improvisation. And you have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to pick up opportunities that come along.” We shouldn’t disregard planning altogether however, but we should be careful not to obsess about it. Conversely, the need to develop a highly structured plan before taking any action at all can cause you to develop planning paralysis.
Planning paralysis can affect many areas of our lives, including our charitable giving. Having a charitable giving plan implies that a few things have been considered before making a gift, such as where do my charitable passions lie? What does my budget allow me to give? When is the best time for me to give? When is the best time for a charity to receive my gift? These are all questions that can hinder some of us from formulating a charitable giving plan and then making a difference by setting that plan into motion.
While I am a strong advocate for planning your giving, I also know that too much planning can hinder the joy that comes from spontaneous giving. All of your planning does not need to be perfect before you make your first gift. Some of it, maybe much of it, can be worked out along the way. Once you begin, work on a strategy that considers your beliefs and charitable passions. You don’t need to know exactly how much you will be contributing or exactly where you will make your contributions over the long term. There is time for that later. The key is to start. Just begin the journey and experience the joy of generosity.
At Abundance Canada, we can help you develop a charitable giving plan. We offer a variety of donor-advised fund options, designed to facilitate either short-term or long-term goals. Abundance Canada also offers advice, tax information, and tools to make your giving easy.
Our Gift Planning Consultants can help you open a gifting account, which will allow you to have the flexibility of spontaneous giving or to hold the funds until you have developed a giving plan. Once you make a donation to a gifting account, Abundance Canada will make donations on your behalf to the charities you choose, when you choose. You decide when to give, how much to give, and you can even remain anonymous if you wish.
Abundance Canada looks after all of the administrative details, so that you can experience the joy and simplicity of giving—and avoid planning paralysis. Contact a Gift Planning Consultant today.
Marlow Gingerich is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Ontario and eastern provinces. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance Canada office or visit abundance.ca.
“A man had two sons. When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve” (Luke 15:12-14).
Many of us are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. There are great lessons about grace and forgiveness, but I’ve never heard it used to warn about giving children gifts before they are emotionally or spiritually mature enough to handle them properly.
We aren’t told how old the prodigal was when he made his disrespectful demand of his father, but clearly he wasn’t ready to handle money responsibly. I wonder if the story could have been different if the father knew what we now know about human brain development. What was the father thinking? Could he have had any idea how poorly equipped his son was to handle the premature inheritance?
Science has taught us that, even in well-adjusted people, it can take up to age 25 before the prefrontal cortex is fully developed. This part of the brain helps people appreciate the consequences of their actions. In her book Payback–Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, Margaret Atwood argues that knowing what we now understand about brain development, giving people access to credit cards too soon could be considered a form of child abuse.
Similarly, parents should consider whether allowing their children to potentially inherit more money than they’ve ever had before, as soon as they attain the age of majority, would be a blessing or a bane.
About 15 years ago, I was trying to make this point in an end-of-life planning seminar at a church in a small town. A young woman stood up and said that she agreed with me completely.
Later I heard the sad family story. Her father died when she and her brother were 19. Their mother had passed away earlier. They each inherited $60,000. It was way more money than either of them knew what to do with. Her brother chose particularly poorly, burning through all the cash and ringing up considerable debt in only 18 months. She is now determined to ensure her children have a better understanding of money.
Another scripture relevant to the topic of inheritances is Proverbs 13:22: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”
At first glance this passage seems to skip a generation and leave everything to the grandkids. But when taken in context with other advice in Proverbs, we see that wealth can only be successfully transferred between generations if a values transfer comes ahead of the money.
Part of me wonders if we might have fewer prodigal children and grandchildren if we were more explicit in modeling generosity and explaining our beliefs and habits. We can transfer good values to our children by educating them about responsible spending, good habits, and about giving throughout our lives.
We can model generosity in our estate plans by including charitable gifts as if they were an extra child in the list of beneficiaries. Let your kids know what values are important to you and how you hope they will continue them with their inheritance.
Abundance Canada can help you design and carry out a generosity plan. Ask us how.
Mike Strathdee is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Ontario and eastern provinces. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance Canada office or visit abundance.ca.
A father often took his five-year-old son to the local minor hockey league games. Each time, they saw the same homeless man in the parking lot asking for donations.
The first time, the son asked his dad why the man was asking for money, providing an opportunity for the dad to explain homelessness. The second time, the son asked why everyone didn’t give the homeless man money, which gave the dad a chance to share a lesson on charities and generosity.
On their third trip to the rink, the young boy approached the homeless man. The father and son now knew the man by name and often engaged him in brief, casual conversation. Suddenly, the boy reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a small bag of coins and, with a big smile, offered the bag to the homeless man. The man smiled back, offering an appreciative “Thank you.” The dad could only smile as he fought back tears.
This young boy understood Abundance. Even with a small bag of nickels and quarters, he felt he had enough to share and wanted to give something to their new friend. Abundance isn’t about wealth or excess or affluence. Abundance starts with gratitude and nurtures relationship. When you’re grateful for what you have, whether a little or a lot, you want to share it with others.
There is actually much evidence out there that says living generously is good for us! The book, The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, is the result of a five-year social scientific study of financial giving done in the United States. The authors conclude that, “Generous financial givers are happier people.”
The research also suggests that “while money cannot buy happiness, giving it away actually associates with greater happiness.” In the story, the boy, the father, and the homeless man were all affected favourably by this simple act of generosity.
The authors of Paradox of Generosity go on, “This win/win outcome of generosity also holds true for other kinds of well-being, such as health, avoidance of depression, purpose in life, and personal growth.” In contrast, when we don’t live generously and strive to protect ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, “we are affected in ways that make us more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes.” If this is true, why wouldn’t we all want to give?
Better health and happiness are simply the side effects of generosity. At Abundance Canada, we work with some of the most generous people in Canada. For them living generously is not about the size of their wallet; it’s about the depth of their heart. They don’t give because they can—they give because they want to. They are passionate about the charities they choose to support and eagerly seek out ways to express their generosity.
Our organization was built on the understanding that God is generous and that God invites us to share.When we are generous, we reflect God’s character.
Abundance Canada offers a variety of services to help people live generously. We can help you discover ways to give generously, both now and later in life—for example, a generosity plan in your will. Every person has unique circumstances. Abundance Canada consultants will listen to your story, identify your charitable goals and develop a plan to help you experience faithful, joyful giving.
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest AC office or visit abundance.ca.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference