Thursday, November 09, 2006

What should I do with $100?

I have an envelope with five $20 bills sitting on top of my bedroom dresser. What should I do with this money?

Here's the background. This past summer, I was at a Calvin seminar on writing as Christian proclamation, and we were told that as part of the seminar, each participant would receive an additional $100 for use related to the purposes of the seminar. Originally we considered options like pooling our money together as a lump sum that could be used as a scholarship fund or something that would be used to encourage Christian writers, or to keep the funds as a reserve for us as an incentive - once we reached some goal, like writing an article or publishing a book, we would be sent the money. Ultimately we decided to use the money the way some churches have, inspired by the parable of the talents and the Pay It Forward concept, to use the money in some creative, constructive way for the sake of the kingdom, and then to write about the process and the results. We dubbed our project "Write on the Money."

Then we got word that actually, we don't have funding for this. It turns out that each of us already received our $100 in the form of reimbursement for the books we bought and read for the seminar. But instead of scrapping the idea, our seminar decided to proceed, and we'd come up with the money ourselves. What's been fun so far is that several of us have been surprised with money showing up unexpectedly - one participant received $100 for a medical study she was a part of, and another participant wrote an online article and got a check for, you guessed it, exactly $100.

In my case, this past July I was sent some interview questions about my suburban book by the editor of Youthworker Journal. He was going to put together a dialogue article by interviewing me and another author who had also recently written a book about suburbia. Part of the intent of the Calvin seminar was to set aside time to do our own writing, so one of the things I did during an afternoon was write out answers to the interview questions and send them in. A month or so later, I got a follow-up e-mail from Youthworker Journal asking me to submit an invoice for payment for my article. I hadn't realized that the piece was considered an actual article that I would be paid for. So I submitted the paperwork, and a few weeks ago I got my check for the piece. I deposited the check and immediately withdrew $100 to set it aside for this Calvin project. The envelope has been sitting on my dresser ever since.

So - what should I do with it? Any ideas? One of my fellow participants buried his money in the backyard, to try to understand the experience and thinking of the third servant in the parable of the talents. Since I got the money in conjunction with an article about my suburbs book, I think I should do something suburban-related with it. After all, two chapters of my book are dedicated to issues of consumerism and materialism, and I've reflected a bit on suburbia as a consumer culture. Is there a way that I could use this $100 constructively and Christianly in my suburban context?

I'm open to suggestions! If I end up doing some sort of ongoing project, I'll blog about it periodically here. And if anybody out there has been at churches that have done this kind of project, I'd love to hear what you or others did and what the results were.


Mark Goodyear said...

Fascinating story about the guy burying his money.

One of my friends and I were talking about the homeless a few years back. He said he hated to give money to homeless people because it just felt wrong.

"Nobody gives me handouts," he said. "I work for my money."

That comment led us to consider: What would it look like to hire a homeless person? A homeless guy says he needs a meal. Fine, we could take him out to dinner somewhere and make him pay for the meal with good conversation.

We'd give him a healthy hourly rate of $25.00 an hour or something. Then for two hours of conversation with us, he gets a $50.00 meal.

We didn't have the guts to try it out. But I figure you're a more courageous person than I am.

So that's my idea for you.

Scott Z said...

Did you see this story about the pay-it-forward effort Starbucks is trying this year?

Doesn't answer your question... but I thought you may be interested. Plus, your question was hard.


Unknown said...

After studying the talents verses, my church gave everyone in the congregation $10 to "invest."

Here's a link to the stories of what people did.

It is encouraging to read at the very least.

Anonymous said...

How about finding what the heart of your local faith community is in terms of service, but has hampered for lack of funds... is it for youth - and they just need $10/week for pizza to bring the kids in? Is it for the elderly - $10/wk for gas to drive them to stores, meet their physical needs? Is is a food pantry for the homeless? A TV for the sports ministry? $ for the children's ministry to get books and crayons? Speakers/a mic for the musicians?

How about 5 buckets, 4 rakes, a gutter-cleaner, a cheap ladder, and some glass cleaning supplies and getting a group from church to go out and volunteer to take care of a whole street's fall cleaning needs? Or all the shut-ins' house needs?

May God bless your $100! Shine, baby, shine!

Brian and Carie Anne said...

Consider doubling your influence. Go through your closets and remove any item that hasn't been worn more than once in a season. When you donate the item to charity, include a note and a $5 or $10 dollar bill in the pocket.

Check with your local school and see if you can purchase new books for the library or for a needy student.

Encourage young writers by sponsoring an essay contest on what it is like to be a suburban christian kid. The $100 is good seed money - see if any local businesses or churches would be willing to match it. I bet the local paper would help with promotion.

Anonymous said...

Find some very needy, elderly person in your community...or at least close by, and bless them with the extra cash..or go buy something they need, but can't afford.

Helen said...

I think Evergreen Baptist-LA did something similar where they gave each of their small groups $100 and asked them to invest it in Kingdom-building work somehow. You might want to touch base with someone there to see what they came up with.

My idea: what is a more suburban way to raise money than to have a garage sale? You could organize a multi-family garage sale with people in your community/church, and make some sort of arrangement with all the participants beforehand, such as half of the proceeds from the sale will go towards a charity in the community. Use the $100 for marketing costs, refreshments, etc. Hopefully what you can raise will be more than the $100 you invest in bringing the idea to life!

L.L. Barkat said...

I've been reading about the cancer epidemic (one in three Americans now get cancer) and its relationship to environmental toxic overload.

The other night, at my social issues reading club, we were brainstorming about what could be done. The author of Living Downstream notes, for instance, that sweeping changes are now possible in the dry-cleaning industry (which releases huge amounts of carcinogenic materials into the air, etc).

Anyway, one of the book club participants noted that the problem with dry-cleaners is they are often "mom and pop" operations, without money to change their equipment over to wet-cleaning. In her community, a group of families pooled some money to help the local dry-cleaner make the shift. It worked. No more carcinogens from that vent on Main Street.

When we work together with our money, we can change more than the life of one individual. We can affect whole communities and regions.

christianne said...

This is such a cool idea, Al. (I found you from Laura's blog, but I've also read your comments -- very thoughtful -- on Mark's.) I'm totally thinking about what I would do, given my passions for the kingdom. The first thing that came to mind, because I love dignifying the individual human heart, would be to buy 20 people coffee and sit and let them tell me about their lives while I ask questions that push them deeper. I'm trying to decide if I would have the guts to do this with strangers or not.