Rod Dreher

Reader Anna e-mails a link to Nick Kristof’s column Sunday, in which he profiles a relatively well-off family that downsized its life to a more reasonable level so they could give more to the needy. They even sold their big house, moved to a smaller one, and donated the difference to an African charity. Interestingly, the family, the Salwens, found that they were happier as a family in a smaller house. Excerpt:

In writing the book, the Salwens say, the aim wasn’t actually to get people to sell their houses. They realize that few people are quite that nutty. Rather, the aim was to encourage people to step off the treadmill of accumulation, to define themselves by what they give as well as by what they possess.
“No one expects anyone to sell a house,” said Hannah, now a high school junior who hopes to become a nurse. “That’s kind of a ridiculous thing to do. For us, the house was just something we could live without. It was too big for us. Everyone has too much of something, whether it’s time, talent or treasure. Everyone does have their own half, you just have to find it.”
As for Kevin Salwen, he’s delighted by what has unfolded since that encounter at the red light.
“This is the most self-interested thing we have ever done,” he said. “I’m thrilled that we can help others. I’m blown away by how much it has helped us.”

Kristof wrote last week about neurological research showing that altruism may be hard-wired into our brain.
What do you think you could give up for the sake of helping the less fortunate? That’s a question I’d like to think about as we’re approaching Lent, which is not only a time of fasting, but also of almsgiving. The luxuries in my life usually have to do with food and wine. Mind you, we Orthodox Christians have a pretty serious fast anyway during Great Lent (no meat, no dairy), but I’m going to try to figure out how much I spend on eating out and eating well at home during regular time, and give the difference to charity during the fast.
How about you? What do you think you and your family could meaningfully sacrifice for the sake of giving the money you spend on it to the poor?

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