by Rose Feerick
During the past few weeks, I have spoken with several people who are increasing their giving in an attempt to respond to the economic impact of the covid-19 pandemic. In the course of those conversations, I have been asked more than once, “How do you identify who or what to give to?” This reflection is my attempt to answer that question.
Below are highlights of what I have learned about discerning gifts from twenty years of sitting in Harvest Time and Wisdom & Money circles. Every one of these bullet points deserves a much longer explanation and examples. But in the interest of trying to provide wisdom for those who are trying to respond quickly to the current crisis, I offer these suggestions and hope there is something here that will be helpful. Please also know that Steven and I are available to you for one-to-one conversation in your discernment process.
Give to organizations whose work is in line with your values/personal sense of purpose or vocation. Giving is a way to participate in the work that you are committed to and/or that you feel is your vocation. None of us can do everything, but through gift we can join in lifegiving work that others are doing and thus expand our participation. Before making gifts, take time to consider or remember your core commitments and sense of vocation.
Give to organizations/individuals that you know. Money creates a connection, and being a supporter is a way of being in relationship. Ideally, we give to organizations or people with whom we are in ongoing relationship, or with whom we would like to be in relationship.
Consider that relationship a long-term one. Ideally, we give to places and people with whom we intend to stay in relationship. Joys, boredom and challenges may arise along the way. Commitment to the relationship helps us to engage such experiences as opportunities to learn and to deepen the relationship.
Do not seek adulation or special treatment through giving. Gifting serves a purpose greater than oneself and ideally flows in a spirit of humility. Gifts that seek adulation or special treatment reinforce internal ego dynamics and power dynamics in the world. Seek instead to make gifts that open the heart and carry a spirit of partnership.
Do receive appreciation. Listening to another’s gratitude can be heart-opening and relationship-building; it can enable us to see how the Holy Spirit is working through us. Take the time to take it in.
Trust that competent leaders on the ground know what is needed. If we are not actively involved in the work, chances are local changemakers/leaders know better than we what is needed. Rather than seeking to control how gifts are used, get behind people and organizations that you trust, and give unrestricted gifts (unless requested otherwise).
Understand yourself as a partner/co-worker toward a shared purpose (not the boss). When organizations and individuals that we give to do something that we don’t understand, it’s a great opportunity for conversation. When we have skills that could benefit the organization, we can offer our involvement in a spirit of partnership.
Give from vision to vision. When giving to help others to meet their basic needs and to create just social structures, avoid giving because we “feel bad” or identify others as lacking in some way. Instead, consider the brilliance of your vision and spirit; see the brilliance of someone else’s vision and spirit; and offer a gift that flows from vision to vision.
Listen. Take time to listen for your own clarity. Take time to listen to the organization/person you are giving to. Do this especially if you do not understand their approach. There may be more to the story than you know or can see. Take time to listen for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Transition Honorably. If you discern that it is time for you to stop giving to an organization that you have been giving to regularly, be in conversation with the organization’s leadership ahead of time to develop an exit plan that gives the organization time to adjust. This is especially important if your gift makes up a large part of the organization’s budget.
Reflect. From time to time, reflect on your practice of giving. Pay attention to gifts that open your heart and that feel like they flow through you, bringing life to you and the recipient. Note gifts that do not feel that way and take the time to open up what does not feel great to see what is happening there. Celebrate what has happened as a result of the work you have been part of supporting.
In my experience, giving with an open heart, a spirit of humility and in a way that transforms social structures is an art form. It also requires quite a bit of “unlearning” of things we have been taught in our culture. Skillfulness in this area takes time, experience, and experimentation.
It also requires a willingness to look at how we are in the giving process – what is happening in our minds and hearts. It requires an openness to being transformed so that gifts are not sourced in ego or cultural dynamics but flow in alignment with the Holy Spirit.
For this reason, Wisdom & Money’s work is grounded in practices that open the heart and enable us to become conscious of our inner process in money decisions. They teach us to listen to ourselves, to others and for the movement of the Holy Spirit. These practices provide the ability to embody our truest selves and to move money in the world in a spirit of justice.
I offer these reflections as a quick overview for those who are stepping into giving in an increased way right now and want to do so well. I also know that there is incredible wisdom in Wisdom & Money’s network about this topic. I invite you into two opportunities to reflect on your work with money along with others in the Wisdom & Money community.
On Friday, May 8 at Noon Pacific/3 Eastern, Steven and I will be hosting a 90 minute zoom conversation to continue to explore the topic of giving. During the conversation we will pray together, invite each person to share our wisdom on this topic, and listen. We invite you to join us. Email me at [email protected] for more information.
In addition, on May 28-31 we are offering a virtual weekend Retreat-In-Place. If you would like to experience spiritual practices that transform relationship with and flow of money, please consider joining us for that retreat which each of us will engage from our current location. More information here.
Both of these offerings are intended for people who see themselves as having more than enough financial wealth and/or who come from a culture of wealth. At Wisdom & Money, we do not put a number on what constitutes wealth. We are aware that different people have different definitions of wealth and often that depends on who you are comparing yourself to and/or where you live. Most people who come to our retreats are keenly aware of economic inequities and/or have friends who struggle to make ends meet. Together, we listen for how to make financial decisions in order to create a world in which everyone has their needs met.
photo credits: Noa Mohlabane and Rose Feerick
If you would like to offer a thought about what you have learned about giving in the comments please feel free to do so.