Tuesday, August 01, 2006

the power to give

Since there is more to be said about giving, consider today's post Part II.

Without having met Bill and Melinda Gates, I can assert this: I would like them because they give. No one is gonna knock the Gates's for selfishness. Their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose aim is to provide lifesaving health care products and technology for the poorest parts of the world, has an endowment of US 29.2 billion. Billion, that is. According to the latest estimations, that would dole out almost 5 bucks to every human being alive worldwide.

Of course, Bill and Melinda didn't accumulate that kind of cash by being so willy-nilly; they are savvy investors. Savviest of the savvy, really -which is demonstrated by the way they go about their business. Exactly two years from today, Bill officially "retires" from Microsoft in order to devote himself fulltime to the foundation. This example of dedication inspired the second richest person in the entire world to send in his pledge. Whadda deal. On June 25, 2006, Warren Buffett arranged for 10 million Berkshire shares (worth over US 30.7 billion) to be given over multiple years in annual contributions. (that's another crisp Lincoln per person, thank you...) He set down the conditions as follows:
"Buffett's gift came with three conditions for the Gates Foundation:
Bill or Melinda Gates must be alive and active in its administration;
it must continue to qualify as a charity;
and each year it must give away an amount equal to the previous year's Berkshire gift, plus another 5% of net assets."

We're talking college scholarships, AIDS prevention, diseases that strike mainly in the Third World, and other worthy causes. I am not throwing a blanket of approval over all the Gates's endeavors; some recipients of their help are not ones I commend (namely Planned Parenthood and the US Population Fund) but this is not the moment to criticize. Let it be enough to point out that the three wealthiest people on the face of the planet seem to have outdone us all in the Giving Department.

All this giving should make our heads spin. And it does. Let me take your spinning head and point it in this direction:

"And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
And calling His disciples to Him, he said to them, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury.;
for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, and all she had to live on." (Mark 12:41-44)

Ah, the wisdom of Jesus. He reposes on the dusty ground across from the offering bucket, just to watch. His disciples were busying themselves elsewhere, as Jesus has to call them over when He finds what He was looking for. He bowls them over with His wacky statement:
"Look who gave the most!"
"What, Lord? Not that old widow! We didn't even hear the jingle of gold when she hobbled past."
"Let me explain..."

You and I have the power to give, and give big. We don't need endowments, appointments at the top of powerful companies, or investment banker's advice. The power to give lies in our hand, be we rich or destitute. As a child, I used to picture this old woman sighing as she reluctantly squeezed those few thin coins through the offering slot. But now? I see an eager face, lit from within with the joy that comes from sacrifice. I believe that was the countenance that compelled Jesus to rally His disciples together: Check this out. This is the real deal. This is giving.

Watch out Bill and Melinda. And Warren. We're about to pass you.
And we have small copper coins in our hands.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnny__M says:

Here, here!

9:33 PM  

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