Two New Books Challenge Ideas
Giving is receiving
The prospect of participating in the fight against poverty can be overwhelming. Most people have full lives that prevent them from becoming “activists.” They have difficulty imagining what they can do beyond sending donation checks and writing politicians.
Our Day to End Poverty (Berrett Kohler, 2007) by Shannon Daley-Harris and Jeffrey Keenan ’83 describes “24 ways you can make a difference.” This book shows how individuals can contribute to poverty relief on international, community, and individual levels, whether they’re preparing breakfast, driving kids to school, donating clothes or an old computer, or just checking email.
For Keenan, a former Seattle Pacific University business student, co-writing Our Day to End Poverty was a big step in a journey of faith: “God planted a seed in my heart to be involved in addressing the problem of poverty.”
A strategic initiatives program manager with Adobe Systems, Keenan spent three years researching poverty solutions and decided, “I have to do something.” He and his collaborators embarked on “a grand experiment … creating a resource that wouldn’t set off bells and whistles connected to the labels we wear. Poverty’s not a ‘left’ or ‘right’ issue. We wanted a resource for everybody.”
The book’s myriad inventive solutions reveal that people can help save lives whether they choose to make one small change or take what Keenan calls “the deep dive” in giving.
When Arthur Brooks, son of the late Professor David Brooks ’58 of Seattle Pacific University’s Mathematics Department and Jackie Hansen Brooks ’57, gave a lecture on campus recently, he strove to clear up a misunderstanding.
His new book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books, 2007), makes the controversial claim that conservatives are “far more compassionate than their liberal foes.” But the project was not intended to throw fuel on partisan fires, the registered Independent insists: “The really big story in Who Really Cares is faith.”
In his research as director of the Nonprofit Studies Program at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Brooks discovered that people who prioritize family and faith — any faith — tend to devote more money and time to helping those in need than people who are not religious: “If there is a charity gap in America, it’s a secular/religious charity gap. Religious people give more to everything.”
Brooks says he was surprised by these results of his number-crunching. What is more, his research revealed that those who give are happier and healthier.
The entire process of writing Who Really Cares led him to some personal life-changing decisions. “I thought, ‘Why am I not getting joy from my giving?’” he explains. “And it’s because I hadn’t thought about it enough. So my wife and I started approaching our giving differently. We adopted a baby, among other things, because — remember the old cigarette ad? — we wanted full flavor from our giving.”
Brooks encourages people to ask themselves, “What act of service could I do this week that would create the most value and meaning?” He further examines the rewards of giving in his next book, Gross National Happiness, coming in April from Basic Books.
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