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The Power of Half

1 rating: 3.0
How one family gave back to the poor

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Tags: Books, Cafe Libri, Charity, Philanthropy, Generosity
Author: Kevin and Hannah Salwen
Genre: non-fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date Published: 2010
1 review about The Power of Half

How one family made the world a little bit better

  • Jul 5, 2010

The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, Kevin and Hannah Salwen, 2010, ISBN 9780547248066

This is the true story of one family’s decision to actually do their bit to make the world a little better.

The Salwen’s live in suburban Atlanta, in a $1.5 million house, but they are veteran volunteers through the local Habitat for Humanity. One day, fourteen-year-old Hannah has a Eureka! moment. In the car with her father, she sees a shiny Mercedes car next to a homeless man. She realizes that if the Mercedes driver was driving a lesser car, the homeless man could have a meal. This leads to a decision by the family, not an easy decision, to downsize into a smaller house, and give half the proceeds to the poor.

The first decision to be made was who they should help. There are many worthy charities and causes out there; the decision was made to focus on poverty in Africa. The next decision to be made was how they should help. Simply throwing money at the African continent will not help; in fact, it may just make things worse. The family was very methodical, researching a number of smaller charities, and meeting with representatives of their top 4 choices to hear their "sales pitch." The Salwen’s eventually decided to assist a couple of villages in the country of Ghana, traveling there to see the results of their generosity, up close and personal. The only problem in their whole plan was that their house went up for sale right in the middle of the housing crisis, so it was on the market for a very long time.

Along the way, the Salwen’s learned, the hard way, that not everyone will "get it." Even friends and relatives interpreted their generosity as a comment on their lack of generosity (we’re better than you are). Perhaps a bit of discretion is not a bad idea.

Obviously, not everyone can downsize into a smaller house, and donate half the proceeds to the poor. Find something you can do. It can be as simple as halving your TV or computer game time each week, and spending that extra time volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen. This is an inspiring story of how one family gave back to others, and it will inspire others to do likewise.

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