A lot of people have been doing the whole “Thirty Days of Thanksgiving” thing on the internets, and to be completely honest, I’ve never been good at that sort of thing. Because the truth be told, I’m continuously thankful for my life. I have a beautiful loving wife, a great job, no debts weighing me down, I live in Santa Barbara, and the list goes on and on. I’m continuously surprised at the amount of blessings I have been given.
But if there is one thing that I could be especially grateful for, it would be having the ability to help others who haven’t been given so much.
I was in San Francisco this week for a conference, and in the span of two days, I saw two different individuals being chased by retail store employees. One came flying out of a Walgreens and the other out of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Store in my fancy-ass hotel. Both running as fast as they can. I stopped and stared for a bit, and then like the rest of San Francisco, I stopped looking. Then I stopped caring.
In the three and a half years that I’ve been living in Santa Barbara, I’ve never seen people as desperate as that.
Can you imagine that sort of desperation? I can. It weighs on me just as continuously and just as heavy as my good fortune. So much so, that even when my wife and I were still paying off our massive mountain of debt, I started to do something more.
I’ve always tithed on my money. It’s not something I talk about, just a way of life that I learned from my father. But instead of giving it to large churches so they can buy new audio equipment, I started giving that money to a local ex-pastor who now focuses exclusively on helping the poor in Santa Barbara. That change in behavior started this year.
Before that, since December 5, 2009, I’ve taken $25 every month and made a loan through Kiva to someone in the world. And when the borrower paid that loan off, the money would then snowball into another loan for someone else.
Want to know one of my life goals? I want to keep making this loan every month for the rest of my life, and after my death, the money I’ve given and continue to give will increase and perpetually be re-lent to entrepreneurs in poor countries throughout the world.
This year, I’ve started to add on top of that through the Rolling Jubilee. What is Rolling Jubilee? It’s a project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Jubilee is actually a Biblical idea, a large part of which includes forgiving debts.
In this country, in this political climate, with me claiming the faith that I do, of course I have to get involved. Of course. Why? Well, for starters:
The list is endless.
I consider myself so privileged that I am in a place where I can give to others. I don’t say any of this to brag (because to be honest, there is nothing to brag about), but to inspire.
Tithing has always been a deeply personal decision, but I’ve never regretted it. And you can ask my wife, who was a skeptic at first, what she thinks of tithing now. She’ll tell you that it’s not an option. Call it God, call it karma, call it whatever you want, the success of the practice has been undeniable.
When I started doing Kiva, I started with a single $25 dollar loan. Three years later, I’ve lent $4,100.00. I’ve made 164 loans now. The picture you see above is only 64 of the loans. There are a hundred more.
Look at all those faces!
With the money that is being paid back by previous borrowers adding to the additional loan I make every month, I’m running about seven loans per month right now. And that number is only going to get larger. Imagine what numbers I might have in 10 years. Imagine what kind of numbers you could have.
Yesterday, I gave my first $50 donation to Rolling Jubilee, which will be enough to abolish about $2,000 of anonymous debt. Debt that is usually bought by shitball collectors so they can hound and abuse individuals into collection. Doesn’t matter if that person is choosing between buying groceries or paying a debt. Call ‘em! Hound ‘em! Yell at ‘em!
Not anymore. Now Rolling Jubilee is buying it. And then squashing that bullshit.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty good return on investment. Not for myself, but for the benefit of everyone. Isn’t that the very model of Christianity? Didn’t Jesus pay our debts?
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the opportunities I have to help others and all I want for Christmas is more. It may sound like I can do this because I can afford it. But I wasn’t always able to afford it. My wife and I scrapped by for a long time. We made a lot of sacrifices. But things are different now. And I think that’s true due to some discipline, sure, but I also think it’s due to decisions like this to give where we could. By simply living out our faith, doing what those verses I listed out told us to do.
Giving money is the easy part. I’m not a people person, and for me, that’s probably the obvious next step. Getting involved on a more personal level. But for now, I’m just thankful for this.
I mean. God fucking damn it. Look at all those faces.
Just look at them.