We’re coming upon our annual time of giving—giving thanks for the harvest, giving gifts to our loved ones, and end-of-year giving to people and groups we care about. Before any of that, we’ll give our vote to have our small voice in our country’s future.
But beyond what we have received in the past, beyond our circle of family and friends, beyond our country, beyond the next four years, what of our time, talent, and treasure are we giving to the future?
I’ve asked this question for years, ever since I began to be aware of the overwhelming issues that we need to face to create a future we want to live in. How do we, or I, or any individual deal with the tidal wave of hatred, violence, and destruction that seems to be upon us? What can I do? What makes a difference? Where to start?
I have found that the place to start is where, as theologian Frederick Buechner suggests, your greatest joy and passion meet the world’s greatest need.
Some of us find our place through giving to our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. A ballet camp here, a scholarship there, a ticket to a Shakespeare play, or travel to another country—all are ways we give to the future through our descendants.
Others of us are called to expand beyond our personal circles to address the larger issues of our time. My greatest passion has been to change our collective stories of fear, greed, and destruction into something creative, beautiful, and life-affirming. It’s only a short time ago that we became consumers rather than citizens, shareholders rather than multiple stakeholders. We can change our story of how we live together. Life is not so much furthered by the survival of the fittest but by the adaptability of humanity collaborating together. Life thrives on diversity, not on monoculture.
So my time, treasure, and talent have been poured into this passion. I volunteer my time to run a non-profit called NewStories, which calls upon all of my accumulated talent and experience as a depth psychologist, entrepreneur, group facilitator, and host for conversations that matter. I love convening and catalyzing, making things happen by bringing my resources to people and programs that serve change.
Having inherited some money when my mother died 25 years ago, I have learned over time how to put my treasure toward what I really care about. I believe that the stories we tell ourselves matter and that changing the story changes the future. I celebrate people making a difference. I love nurturing what is already working in thriving communities. I find great joy in offering young people the kinds of experiences that have most healed and awakened me.
My talent doesn’t extend to putting my time into all of these things, but I can put my treasure into the hands of people and groups who are much more articulate, skilled, and energetic than I am. Everything I fund has to do with creating a new story of humanity in right relationship with each other and Earth. Sometimes it’s institutions like Hollyhock and the Whidbey Institute that gather and train tomorrow’s leaders. Sometimes it’s people who are on the forefront of articulating a new story, like Bob Stilger or Duane Elgin. Sometimes it’s supporting and empowering the next generation of trailblazers through scholarships to youth programs like Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) in Seattle or Partnerships for Youth Empowerment (PYE Global), an international organization based in Langley, Washington.
These are some of my choices. What are yours? What is your passion? Your joy? What value, what skill, what beauty do you want to see thrive into the future? Where do you see the world’s greatest need? Is it for love, for vision, for inspiration, for skillful means? And what gifts of your time, talent, and treasure could manifest your vision?
Giving doesn’t have to be about money. Three women in my community saw that too many children were not getting enough food and started making sandwiches for school lunches. Now a successful organization, Whidbey Island Nourishes makes 2000 meals a month with fully engaged community support. Another saw that some elders need help with repairing or rehabilitating their homes. The result, started on a shoestring: Hearts and Hammers, an annual event that serves 30 to 40 homes in a one-day work party of several hundred volunteers.
There are so many options. But first, find your passion—then start giving your time, talent and treasure to it. Perhaps you’ll finally commit the time, and perhaps treasure, to learn how to paint, sculpt, garden, or play a musical instrument as your contribution to beauty in the world. Maybe you’ll find a need in your community and gather people to address it. It can be as simple as hosting a block party for your neighbors.
This season of giving, try something out of the box. Your box. When you put your time, talent, and treasure to manifest what you truly care about, you create the legacy of your heart.
Local Organizations Making a Difference
NewStories is a collaboratory of people and a constellation of projects dedicated to gathering, co-evolving, and disseminating new narratives and practices that inspire, encourage, and guide creative responses to the unprecedented cultural transformation of our times. newstories.org
Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) helps young women ages 13-18 from diverse backgrounds step up as leaders in their schools, communities, and the world through inter-generational mentorship, intercultural collaboration, and creative programs. youngwomenempowered.org
Partnerships for Youth Empowerment unleashes the power, purpose, and potential of young people worldwide by empowering teachers, youth workers, and other leaders to build supportive Creative Communities that change lives. pyeglobal.org
Whidbey Island Nourishes (W.I.N.) is a volunteer-powered organization dedicated to preparing and delivering meals for those in need on South Whidbey, focusing on nutrition and education for our young people. whidbeyislandnourishes.org
Hearts and Hammers brings together hundreds of volunteers to help repair and rehabilitate dozens of homes in an annual one-day event. heartsandhammers.com
Lynnaea Lumbard is co- president of NewStories, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to illuminating and nurturing pathways toward a life-affirming future. A transformational psychologist, interfaith minister, community weaver, and social change philanthropist, she lives on Whidbey and Cortes islands with her husband, Rick Paine.