By age 29 Millard Fuller had become a very unhappy, millionaire Washington, DC lawyer. He consulted with Clarence Jordan, the head of Koinonia Farms located near Americus, Georgia for a period of time to explore what to do about the direction his life might take at this juncture. Those consultations resulted in the creation of Habitat for Humanity which is responsible for providing more than 750,000 families around the world with low-cost, dignified housing, often providing interest-free mortgage loans in the process.
If we ask the question: “How much should Clarence Jordan have charged for his consultation services?” what answer do we get?
In many spiritual traditions encourage the practice of alms-giving. Apparently, spiritually realized beings understood what contemporary social neuroscience is only now confirming experimentally: true generosity holds the potential to profoundly transform our basic neurobiology in unimaginable ways.
What is it that keeps most of us from continually acting with open heart and great generosity? At a most basic level it’s often the stress hormones generated by thoughts like “I won’t have enough” and any number of variations on that theme. Those stress hormones actually end up working to adversely affect both the physical number of cells and the number of connections that those cells make in our brain. That impoverishment results in a reduced flow of energy and information coursing through our bodies and brains, significantly reducing our life force. Think: Ebenezer Scrooge. Feel the constrictions.
What to Give?
Give what you can, when you can. For most of us it would be unhealthy and much more stressful than our current neurobiology could manage if we tried to do what Millard Fuller did: give all his money away to charity and start over with a totally clean “instrument.” But what might we give that would be well-matched for our current level of neurobiological and spiritual development? What might we offer that would stretch us a little, perhaps like secure children operate when they feel assured that mom and dad unquestionably have their back and best interests at heart? (Or, if mom and dad didn’t, that the collective intelligence of the universe generally does)? When they know in their bones that truly, “everything’s gonna be all right, rock-a-bye?” Give what you can, when you can.