If you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. When you make a difference with what you have, what you have expands.
~ Lynne Twist on the principle of sufficiency
As we go through a season of thanksgiving, it is a good time for reflection of being thankful for all that we have in life. Part of that process requires that we appreciate what is sufficient for ourselves and what we can due to help others who lack sufficient necessities. It is in that vein that I decided to deviate from reviewing a traditional intellectual property tome to looking at what it means to have enough.
In The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, Lynne Twist shows us that many of the “facts” we believe about money — more money is good, less money is bad; competition and scarcity are normal because due to the law of the jungle, etc. — come from attitudes towards money that are deeply ingrained in our culture. These are a set of beliefs we use to guide our lives but they may not be completely accurate.
Twist asks us to turn away from a belief systems focused on scarcity (fear of not enough, push to always get more, resignation that it’s just the way it is) to belief systems focused on sufficiency (there is always enough; turn our attention and appreciation to what we already have).
“We live in a world that promotes a mindset of scarcity. That mindset eclipses our experience of our own wholeness and sufficiency and turns our attention to wanting what we don’t have. Consumer culture depends on people living in fear of scarcity, feeling inadequate, empty, and deficient so that we think we need to acquire and accumulate more to be okay. We’re told that there is no alternative, and that’s just the way it is. This mindset is invalid, destructive and disempowering. It is also untrue.”
Having just been strong-armed asked to give my “fair share” to a large, charity fund-raising aggregation conglomerate, I have been thinking a lot about the charities I support and how I can give more to where my efforts can make a real difference in the world. We live in a culture where we are distanced from the devastating poverty in the world. Consider the facts:
- Every six years six million child die before the age of five due to malnutrition
- More than half of the Africans suffer from diseases from poor water quality
- Every day 6,000 people die of AIDS and about 8,200 are infected
- Every half minute an African child die of malaria (more than one million per year)
- More than 800 million people go to bed hungry, 300 millions of them children
Now consider that only about 1 percent of the U.S. government’s budget goes to foreign aid and about 2 percent of U.S. charity dollars went to international affairs. Charity is all too often over-simplified into notions that we should give money out of guilt for what we have or, conversely, that we’ve worked very hard to earn money and everyone one else should work hard and earn there’s, too. The reality is not so simple. Almost always, people are successful (or not) based on complex interactions and interconnectedness that is difficult to untangle.
In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell challenges the belief of the “self-made man” in making the case that superstars don’t arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: “they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, “some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky.”
If one accepts that there are enough resources in the world for everyone, then solving problems such as hunger isn’t about just sending money to hungry populaces. It’s about empowering people to figure out that despite perhaps being told all their lives that they must be dependent on outsiders, that they have the resources — enough resources — to participate in the global economy.
This is the concept of Kiva, who’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is a person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. Individual loans, which start at $25, help fund entrepreneurs ranging from a grocer in South Lebanon to a farmer in Tajikistan. [*See Update below].
Today, I donated money to Kiva and made micro-loans to people in the Dominican Republic and Uganda. Will it make a difference? I’m not sure but I like to think so. This bootstrap method relies on pro-market measures: microfinance, foreign direct investment, trade systems that encourages innovation and fosters self-reliance. However, there are many well-deserving charities to choose from:
Next, maybe I will take the Poverty Challenge. What will you do? Let me know in the comments.
About the Author
Lynne Twist is a global activist, fundraiser, and the author of The Soul of Money. She was an original staff member of The Hunger Project when it began in 1977, and was named the Humanitarian of the Year in 2005 by Youth at Risk. She argues that women are in a unique position to alter mindsets when it comes to economic sufficiency.
“The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life,” by Lynne Twist” (224 pages; W. W. Norton & Company) is available through Amazon.
Also see, What We’re Reading Now.
*Update: It turns out that Kiva Is Not Quite What It Seems.