The Dana Group Newsletter
Committed to the Paramita of Generosity
Generosity in the face of the storm
Despite the fact that we face tough economic times Shambhalians have continued to be incredibly generous. Shambhala Mountain Center recently received generous donations to complete the work needed to be done on their water system, Karme Choling has raised a significant amount of the money needed for its first Scorpion Seal retreat cabin, and due to the local centre matching gift campaign there are a number of centres that have become fiscally stable or are able to embark on new projects. To celebrate generosity in spite of the economic storm we have decided to include stories from around the globe, some of Shambhalians some not, that highlight extraordinary giving.
Sangha member Brian Sutton was surprised when his nine year old son David approached him asking how much money it would take to become a member of the Boston Shambhala Center. Surprised as any father might be Brian inquired as to why his son might want to do such a thing. David responded, “Well, I already spend time there helping out and I like to meditate so I thought I should give money too.”
It turns out David gets $5 a month for allowance. $2 of which is allowed to go to something he might want that week. Another $2 goes into a long-term savings fund. David ended up buying a bike with that money. The last dollar is supposed to go to charity.
Brian then arranged for David to become a member of the Boston Shambhala Center at the amount of $1 a month, or 20% of his income. It remains to be seen if anyone will ask him to sign a contract to stay at that rate for life.
Sofia Diaz (as told by Lisa Johnston)
On the closing night of the first annual Courageous Women program at Shambhala Mountain, Sofia Diaz performed sacred dance for the participants, all women living with cancer. She instructed everyone in the room not to applaud at the end of the dances; she was giving a healing gift and if we clapped, we would be giving something back. She wanted us simply to receive fully. Her dance left hearts ripped open, filled with the intense sad-joy our lineage talks so much about. After her sacred offerings, Sofia put on music and encouraged everyone to get up and dance. One woman who was very sick, was lifted onto the shoulders of the stronger women and was waving her cane in the air to the music, completely transcendent. When I think of generosity, this is the story that comes to me. Deep appreciation no matter what the circumstances in our lives. Receiving and fully experiencing our own and others basic goodness.
Louise Hastey was leading an open practice session at the Austin Shambhala Center when a little girl that lived in the area came in with a friend. Louise did not think much of it at the time but the little girl was inspired enough to tell her father about the place. A few months later he attended a Shambhala Training Level I program and began to meditate regularly.
Not too long after that a lemonade stand opened down the street. It turned out that the little girl who had visited the centre was running it and that all proceeds were going to be handed over to the Austin Shambhala Center later that day. When asked about the lemonade stand she said, “My father was very sick and the meditation helped him. I want to help the Shambhala Center.”
BolderGiving.org is a resource for stories of extraordinary giving. Here are two such stories.
For the many years I earned from $50,000-$100,000 a year, I gave 30-50% of my annual income. Last year I earned a modest $16,000, a drop due to health issues – but I’m still giving the same percentage of my income. How could I not?
My giving is so deeply tied to my identity that I would never suspend it just because I’m less flush. I’ve known both poverty and great wealth from the inside. My family of origin often worried whether we would have enough to eat; but in one of my marriages (long divorced) we argued about buying fast cars, the size of the mansion, etc. My experiences have given me a wide compassion for others which underlies how I live my life.
A beloved project of mine is to pass out work gloves to the immigrant day laborers waiting on the street corners to be hired. I buy gloves, hats, and/or coffee for 30-100 workers at a time. Recently I put a $5 bill inside each hat and gloves. One man cried when he saw the money, saying, “I haven’t eaten in two days.” I’m compelled to change a single moment in someone’s life – and I also believe in strategic giving, creating change at the higher legislative level.
Once a friend gave me money to donate in any way I wanted. I’m sure he expected me to give to a food bank or something similar. Instead I plunked down $10,000 to get into a Gala Fundraiser for the Clinton and Gore Campaign. I wore a gown and heels – but it was still assumed I was part of the serving staff, not a major donor! I was one of the only dark faces in a sea of white people, but I wanted to be there, to see for myself what it meant to have privilege and power—even if only for one evening.
I think one of the boldest things I do is to give to white-led organizations, because I have been criticized for it by my own people. I’ve been asked, “Why are you giving to white people when they have enough access to money?” I think for me it’s about being part of the bigger solution in society, and about finding my own inner power. I want my Latino and Native American communities to be publicly recognized as the givers we’ve always been. If more of us step forward publicly, we’ll be seen as the historical creators of philanthropy that we are, and not simply as the recipients of it.
When my father died when I was 16, I was completely unprepared to inherit half a million dollars. I felt isolated and confused in contemplating my responsibility toward my wealth.
But by the time I was given control of the principal at age 25, I felt much clearer about what I wanted to do with it. I had stumbled upon the Haymarket People’s Fund donor conferences, where I found a network of like-minded wealthy young people. I decided to redistribute my inheritance, which had grown larger by then. I set up a donor-advised fund at the Funding Exchange in New York to fund grassroots groups working on youth, anti-racism and environmental efforts.
After a couple of years, I realized that in addition to giving the money, I also wanted to release the power over and responsibility for how it was spent. So I moved the remainder to the general Funding Exchange grant fund, where activists in the field make the decisions.
I kept $100,000 of the inheritance to help support me during my first years as a teacher and for a down payment on a modest, straw bale home.
I now work as an educator for my income and have no regrets. Giving away that money was one of the most powerful acts of my life.
Other inspiring stories:
Read an article about a $1 million anonymous donation for people displaced by a fire.
President Barack Obama’s campaign showed the nation that a lot of people giving a little can go a long way. For the full story click here.
Paul Schervish, Professor at Boston College, recently gave a lecture joining spirituality and philanthropy. To read his lecture which draws on Pema Chodron, St. Francis’ Peace Prayer, and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola click here.
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