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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

TRANSFORMING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY

Lynne has written a book called, The Soul of Money.  It took her a long time and much work to do this book. She said writing it was the hardest thing she has ever done.  Her purpose was to transform our relationship with money.  Lynne had been to many places where people struggle just to stay alive.  She spent 20 years working for The Hunger Project in places like Ethiopia, India, Senegal, and Burkino Faso.  People there are called "poor."  Yet she discovered that once she engaged with these people (identified as those from less developed countries), there was nothing "poor" about them! They are strong, courageous, innovative, ingenious, gutsy, intelligent!  The label insults them. These people merely live in "resource poor" conditions.  She now calls their countries "less consuming countries."  Lynn commented, "these people have been my teachers."

She went on to say that the "resource rich" have also been her teachers.  It is a sacred work to fund raise.  It is a great privilege to ask people for money! To demonstrate this, Lynne shared the simple, yet powerful story of Gertrude:

Early in her life as a fund raiser, Lynne was asked to go to a large corporation in the Midwest to meet the CEO.  She was working for The Hunger Project (started by Werner Erhart) whose goal and vision was to bring an end to hunger around the world.  She was nervous about going to see this CEO.  His company had made some bad decisions and had a poor reputation.  She had been informed that the CEO was going to make a large contribution to the Hunger Project as a way of rectifying its poor record.  

Lynne arrives at the company and takes the elevators to the top floor.  She feels scared.  She meets the man in his large office behind glass doors.  She sits at a long conference table with him on the other end.  She gives her talk within the15 minute time limit given to her, and he presents her with an envelope.  Inside is a check for $50,000.  It is the largest single donation she has ever raised.  She thanks him, yet deep down she feels unsettled.  

Lynne then goes on to NYC to meet with a black church group in their basement meeting room in Harlem.  The pastor has invited her to speak about The Hunger Project. The rain pours down and she is late.  She enters and finds that rain leaking into the room is collecting in puddles and spattering into pans placed around the room.  She is surprised to find about 75 people waiting for her. She begins her talk, and eventually gets to the place where she is to make the pitch for money.  She pauses, wondering how can she ask these people to give, when their own need is so great!  She remembers that the pastor has asked her to come and do this very thing, ask for money.  She makes her request and then stops.  

There is silence. No one speaks.  Then a woman dressed in a uniform stands and says, "My name is Gertrude and I like you!  I don't have no bank account or checking account, but I earned $75 dollars this week and I'm gonna give it to you!"  Deeply moved, Lynne places the check in the same brief case where she had earlier placed the huge check from the CEO.  She then watches as one after another, people follow Gertrude's lead and put in their contributions.  

Later that evening sitting in her hotel room, Lynne decides to write a letter to the CEO.  She thanks him for his contribution and for the time he took to listen to her.  She then says she has to return the check because it did not come from his heart.

Four years after that memorable day, Lynne received a letter from the CEO.  He said that he had been deeply affected by her letter, that he had followed the work of the Hunger Project over the years, and that he had seen that it was a fine organization. He had left his prior company and gone on to other work.  Now he wanted to send her another contribution, but this one was from his heart.  There was a check for $250,000 in the envelope.

Lynne said that she was not the one responsible for this huge change of heart. It was Gertrude and her giving from her heart that had changed both Lynne and this CEO.  This man had never forgotten Lynne's letter, a letter which eventually changed his life, and which inspires us all, even now, to take a deep look at the soul of money.

Lynne Twist presentation at Bioneers Conference, 2003
Notes by Jean Barker

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