In a series of posts, my family of 5 will reflect on our reading of The Power of Half, chapter by chapter. For this site, we will give our thoughts about the Salwens' journey – its challenges and lessons – and reflect on how the book’s topics relate to our family’s philanthropic life.
Chapter 1: “The Treadmill”
A Mom’s perspective:
What parent can’t relate to a search for more meaning in family life and in our life of accumulation? In “Treadmill” we appear at a marker along the Salwens’ meaning-finding path. On one hand, I am in awe because my professional years have been spent studying philanthropy and how young people become engaged in it. (For example, if you’re interested in inspiring youth stories, check out The Teen Guide to Global Action by Barbara A. Lewis.)
Few stories have touched me the way the Salwens’ has. They changed their lives in response to Hannah’s “philanthropic impulse” – her moment of realization that she needed to address a need in the world. They took her request seriously, created a space for “youth voice” and authentic youth empowerment in their family, developed an informed strategy, and made real sacrifices few families would make. For those
readers who are critical of the Salwens’ choices or publicity, I challenge you to DO something, to back up what you believe needs to be improved in this world with your own philanthropic actions.
There is real suffering and human potential unfulfilled because of geography, gender, and lack of access to resources. The world needs us all to become engaged in philanthropy. After years of parenting – my husband Dennis and I have three girls (11, 9, and 5) – the Salwens’ story has challenged me to ask: How can our family get to that place, to commit to and discover our village mill (a vivid image from Chapter 1)?
I cannot compare our lives directly with that of the Salwens’. We don’t have enough equity in our house and it’s not a mansion, but that’s not the point of this book. The point is: What’s our version of “half”? Many parents attracted to The Power of Half may have biographies similar to Joan and Kevin Salwen – two successful working professionals accustomed to an upscale life.
But more parents will not. Like my family, they make careful choices to afford private school or private music lessons. They buy few gourmet foods and budget the replacement of an old computer that won’t keep up. They weigh each luxury in which to indulge. They remind themselves to be grateful because even these annoying choices are out of reach for the majority of American families who are less likely to buy this book because they’re busy working two jobs to make ends meet.
The personal importance of this book is: What’s our family’s “treadmill”? We live a life of PLENTY and what of all of our habits is too much? How can we make a significant difference? I hope we'll be learning that along the way. I'll keep you posted.