Nov 26, 2016

Friends thought we were crazy last year when my wife and I downsized our life by selling our 2,800 square feet McMansion and renting an ancient mobile home. If things weren’t crazy enough, we halved our salaries by shifting to part-time hours.

Now, for the past 18 months, instead of buying kitschy knickknacks, carpet upgrades, or the latest electronic appliances, we’ve changed our budget to incorporate something I call “thanks-giving.”

Thanks-giving is the giving we do based on the abundance in our life. In our case, we’ve increased charitable giving toward three major projects. We can do this largely because we no longer own a two-story money pit.

For instance, in addition to church contributions, I increased my contributions to help my daughter Sara, who moved to Honduras to teach children to read.

She found the need so great that she started a nonprofit organization called Chispa Project. She chose the name because it means “spark” in Spanish, and she believes reading will spark the changes needed in Honduras. The project solicits book donations, inspires teacher development and sponsors international volunteer projects to Honduras.

The project gives direct ownership of the books to local schools and then trains the teachers and the PTA (padres de familia) to jointly manage the books. So far, donations have allowed her to send more than 7,000 books to more than 40 different schools. See more at

As I looked closely at my community through the eyes of thanks-giving, I found that I wasn’t the only one to make big salary changes. My pastor, Barry Smith, left his position in our large church to implement a new strategy for starting churches.

His idea, explained on his website, is to begin new churches inside discount grocery and variety stores, much like the banks have done inside chain grocery stores. To do this, he’s recruiting ministers and businessmen who will target a people group in a typically challenging geographic area.

Church planters (ministers) will use the grocery stores to build trusted relationships to help fill community needs. They will offer deeply discounted items that are badly needed in underdeveloped communities. Within six to 12 months after the store opening, Smith hopes to see the stores morph into self-sustaining community churches.

Smith’s idea is an organic movement that will be self-supporting. No more asking parishioners to pay clergy salaries or pave church parking lots.

I found I had much more to give as I examined the charitable strategy called “micro loans.” These are small dollar loans typically used to help start small businesses or to help enlarge an established business. Micro loans have increased the number of entrepreneurs worldwide and changed the way we see charity.

Recently my neighbor needed some of this charity. He began a personal taxi business through Uber and was doing well until he developed some health problems. Unfortunately, his car payments were too high to maintain during his health crisis and he lost his business.

When his health improved, his financial situation didn’t. Joe needed a break. So, I loaned him half the money he needed to get another car and restart his business. The loan is zero interest repaid at a manageable rate.

My wife and I do these things not because we are rich – not on the salary of a minister and a teacher. We do them because we have enough. We have what we need.

Giving Tuesday is a day set aside since 2012 to respond to the consumerism of the post-Thanksgiving season. On Nov, 29, take a moment to ask yourself, “Do I have enough?” I suspect most of you do.

On this day, I hope you’ll examine your charitable giving. Say no to the sale frenzy and become a thankful giver!

– Write Norris at or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain, or call 843-608-9715.