Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Power of Half by Kevin & Hannah Salwen

The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back
Title:  The Power of Half
Authors:  Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen (www.thepowerofhalf.com)
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date:  February 2010
Format:  Hardcover, 242 pages
Age Group:  Adult, Non-Fiction

At 14, Hannah Salwen wanted her family to DO something to help people.  She knew they often gave money to charitable causes and volunteered with the homeless and Habitat for Humanity but she didn't feel like that was enough.  Her mother, Joan, put forward a challenge to Hannah's desire to help - would the family be willing to sell their 6,500 square foot home and move into something half that size to donate half the money?  Amazingly, the answer was YES and the family started on a life-changing project.  While their initial intention was to improve the lives of others, it turned out that they grew closer as a family and gained so much more than they gave away.

My initial reaction when I began reading the Salwen's story was "They have a 6,500 square foot house for a family of four and their kids go to expensive private schools - of course they have money to give away!"  Right now we are in the process of purchasing a house that is less than half that size and I have no idea what we are going to do with the room because it is so much bigger than what we have now.  As I continued reading The Power of Half, I realized that it was about so much more than selling the house and donating the money.  The Salwen's truly made a family project out of the idea with the kids having equal voting rights with the parents.  They really thought about what cause they wanted to give to and did a lot of research to choose an organization.  The family came together and talked about important world issues and what was the best way to go about helping without just giving a handout.  The Salwen's certainly don't expect people to start selling houses to finance charitable giving but they do ask that families think about the time, talents, and treasures that they do have to contribute.  Half is a huge number for many people but it is something measurable, which was one of the ideas of the project.  They committed to a specific amount instead of just thinking 'I should do more to help.'  More is too vague for most of us but half is something easily grasped.

Each year at our big family Christmas, instead of giving gifts, we collect money for a charity that someone has chosen.  This year it is my turn to choose and the Salwen's gave me a lot of things to think about and questions to ask when looking for the place to donate the family money.  I already have some of my answers - I know that I want to do something in the United States, maybe even locally, and that I would like the donation to benefit women and children in some way.  Now I need to start doing my research into organizations that fit those specifics and then narrow it down from there.  It is easy to look at The Power of Half and say 'but I can't sell my house and give away half the money' or 'I can't travel to Africa to see how my donation is spent.'  The Salwen's took on a project of enormous magnitude but each of us can do some small project that can make a difference if we choose wisely in donating our time, talents, and treasures.  Hannah inspired me to think about what we can give even as we work to make ends meet and her parents gave me hope that I can raise a child who is self-aware and also aware of the larger issues in her community and the rest of the world.

What are your favorite charitable organizations or projects?  How do you donate your time, talents, and treasures?

Additional information:  The Salwen's chose to donate to the Hunger Project and have information on how you can create your own family project at www.thepowerofhalf.com.  For each copy of The Power of Half that is sold, $1 will be donated to Rebuilding Together which helps low-income home-owners in America with critical home repairs.

Full Disclosure:  I was provided a copy of The Power of Half by Caitlin at FSB Associates for the purpose of providing an honest review.

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links and I do earn a small percentage for each item purchased through those links. Any other referral or associate links will be noted within the post.

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