More Than Money
Issue #12
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Creative Giving

Table of Contents

“Birthday Presence”

Editor's Note: the letter on the next page was sent out to a dozen friends along with a check made out to them for $5,000-$10,000. Few of the recipients knew ahead of time that the letter and the check were coming.

Kim says that overall her friends were astonished and delighted. Many bought things to help their daily lives--for instance, a new refrigerator instead of living with an old one for another 10 years. "Whenever I open the fridge I think of you," her friend tells her. Others traveled abroad, or lived on the money so their lives could be easier and slower for a short time.

To Kim's chagrin, she felt privately critical of some people's choices--a challenging lesson in letting go!--but no relationships were strained. Financial differences between her and her friends seem to be no more or less of an issue than they were before, and Kim has no regrets about the gifts.

December 15, 1994

Hey Pals--
Sorry for the copied letter but I know you'll understand. I've had a brilliant idea and wanted to get the news out.

I learned last year that I was scheduled to receive another large inheritance on my 35th birthday, which is today. I have felt very strongly that most of it needs to get put back into the community. I started brainstorming about how the money could have the most impact when suddenly I though, why can't I share some of this with my own personal community as well, the people I love, the folks who are always there when I need them? Friends share what they have with each other (food, time, childcare, love, etc). I happen to have an abundance of dollars.

I went back and forth in my head. Is it appropriate? Is it too complicated emotionally for our friendship to handle? My friends are adamant about not taking money from me--will they get mad? Finally, I decided just to do it, and to clarify myself in an 84-page document to all the recipients (which I have cleverly edited down to the letter you are now holding).

So here's the most important thing: IF YOU DON'T WANT THIS MONEY, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, DON'T TAKE IT! There will be no hard feelings, I'll just put it somewhere else. The other most important thing is that there are no conditions or expectations connected to this money--it's a gift freely given--and I hope you can receive it in the spirit with which it's intended. You can use it absolutely in any way you choose--spend it, give it away, invest it, whatever. (Rest assured that my lifestyle will not be affected by your check. Little Ben will not go without groceries.)

My hope is that if this causes any kind of discomfort, you'll come to me and work it through. I think my biggest worry is that you'll feel indebted to me somehow. Your friendship is one of my most valued relationships and I want nothing to jeopardize it.

It's a reality in my life that I have bunches of money arbitrarily dropped in my lap, and that I often feel isolated in the constant deliberations that's required to deal with the money emotionally and ethically. I have the hope that getting a big check in the mail might create more understanding between us about my own situation.

I don't have any models for doing this so I need to trust that you'll talk to me and we'll figure it out together. So let's talk, in whatever way you'd like…

Love, love, love,

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