Generosity jar

By adding one penny to this jar that corresponds to the day of the year (for example, on Jan. 30 you add $.30; on July 1 you add $1.81) this generosity jar will contain about $670 at the year's end.

Two meetings last week got me thinking about entrenched ways of looking at issues and how much different — and better — our society might be if we could break away from those mindsets.

One involved a meeting in Asheville where a person who described himself as a “futurist” spoke briefly. The term immediately caught my interest. I didn’t even know what a futurist was, so hadn’t even imagined an opportunity to explore this field of study. I’m looking forward to doing an extensive story later, but for now, I’ll simply summarize what futurist Paul Hartzog told the group.

The term “futurist” refers to people who attempt to predict the future or future trends to advise private and public organizations on possible scenarios such as emerging market opportunities and risk management. Hartzog is optimistic about the future and cited one specific example when it comes to managing issues facing communities and populations.

In the past, there have been two go-to sectors for solutions — government and business. With the rise of the internet and social media, it is now possible for individuals to drive solutions, too, creating a third option that can work in conjunction with the previous two.

Several days later, I saw an item in the Asheville paper that truly drove the message home. It concerned a March for Science that was organized by a high school senior at North Buncombe. I already knew about the event because two local residents had submitted letters to the editor about it.

In reading the Asheville Citizen-Times article, I learned the student tried to reach out to those organizing nationally, heard nothing back, so he simply started a Facebook page that attracted 500 people on day one. One of the speakers at the march included Haywood Community College professor Sara Martin. News reports indicated an estimated 2,000 attended the event.

What a powerful example of one person’s passion turning into an event that unites others with a similar interest.

At a second meeting, I had a chance to discuss the “generosity campaign” under way at New Covenant Church. In an effort to demonstrate the power of generosity — and the conviction of church leaders and members that what is given away returns in an even more powerful way — the church has emptied its savings account and has put $150,000 to work in the community helping where there’s a need.

Early in the year before informing the congregation of the plan, church leaders asked members to decide how they would provide a helping hand if only there was enough money. Members filled out “faith cards” and the church elders and staff prayed over them. The next step astounded all. During a single Sunday service, each family in the church was asked to come forward with their faith card, pray about their desire to help and was given an envelope — one families soon learned contained $500 in cash.

Additionally, funds were used to help a family get out of debt, fund a scholarship for a student at Haywood Christian Academy and the final $17,000 in the account was spent on Easter Sunday when the funds were delivered to another church in Haywood County. The amount left in the New Covenant savings account was the exact amount needed for an unrelated church neighbor to pay off its debt.

The idea of a church giving away money in such a determined yet random fashion contradicts conventional wisdom, but could well pave the road to a new way of thinking and living.

Academics call the changed mindset a paradigm shift, something that represents a fundamental change in a basic concept or way of doing things.

While humans are well-known creatures of habit who often resist change, just these two recent events underscore numerous possibilities for bettering the human condition.

I, for one, intend to be on the lookout for new ways of analyzing challenges and approaching solutions thanks to events of last week. Who knows that sorts of possibilities will come our way by being open-minded and thinking outside the box?

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