We’ve all seen the homeless begging for food or money on the street. And we’ve all had a range of reactions, from giving a couple bucks or a sandwich, to trying not to make eye contact, to feeling guilty to wishing things were different. But for most of us the experience is momentary and just part of life we have come to expect.
Not so for 14 year old Hannah Salwen. Driving with her dad Kevin one day, in Atlanta where they live, Hannah was confronted by a homeless man begging for food on the side of the road. She thought about the nice car they were in and the luxuries they enjoyed and she knew something wasn’t right. But more importantly Hannah knew she wanted to do something to fix it.
The Salwens had worked hard and done well for themselves and were busy living a comfortable life. And even though the family was actively involved in several local charities, after seeing that man on the street, Hannah decided what they were doing just wasn’t enough. So she brought her concerns to her tightknit family and they talked about it at length. Her parents thought that would be the end of it, but Hannah’s concerns about the inequality in the world continued and so did the families talks.
After much discussion, her mother Joan finally asked half jokingly, “What do you want to do Hannah, sell the house?” To which Hannah replied, “Yes.”
Thus began a journey for the entire Salwen family in which they decided to sell their house and give half the sales price to a worthy cause. And so THE POWER OF HALF was born.
The book takes the reader through the early stages of the idea through the research into what charity they wanted to work with and the pitfalls they encountered along the way.
Though in large part a personal story, THE POWER OF HALF is also a big idea in easily digestible morsels. Dad Kevin tells the story and reflects on how the decisions and changes affected their family dynamic, and in every chapter there is a section called “Hannah’s Take” where she gives her view on the project and presents an exercise to get the reader thinking about how to make an impact or their own.
When I first picked up the book I was afraid the book would be preachy – and I was also afraid I would come away with an “easy for you to say” type of reaction. But neither was true. Kevin is very open about some of the mistakes made along the way and is also up front about the fact that he knows not everyone is in a position to give to the extent that they have. He and Hannah both talk about giving at a level that is comfortable for you and they do it all with humility and humor.
The beauty of the idea behind THE POWER OF HALF is that it is quantifiable. The idea is not to get overwhelmed by the idea of giving… the who, what, when, where and how… but rather pick something manageable and measurable and go for it.
To find out more about THE POWER OF HALF and the Salwen Family, check out their website at http://www.thepowerofhalf.com/.
— Dana Barrett, Managing Editor