Sunday, January 24, 2010

Selfish pleasures of selflessness: The Power of Half

"Warning! Never suggest a grand gesture to an idealistic teenager. Hannah seized upon the idea of selling the luxurious family home and donating half the proceeds to charity, while using the other half to buy a more modest replacement home."


In his latest column, "What Could You Live Without," Nicholas Kristof writes about the Salwen family behind the book and project The Power of Half: "The project — crazy, impetuous and utterly inspiring — is chronicled in a book by father and daughter scheduled to be published next month: “The Power of Half.” It’s a book that, frankly, I’d be nervous about leaving around where my own teenage kids might find it. An impressionable child reads this, and the next thing you know your whole family is out on the street.

"At a time of enormous needs in Haiti and elsewhere, when so many Americans are trying to help Haitians by sending everything from text messages to shoes, the Salwens offer an example of a family that came together to make a difference — for themselves as much as the people they were trying to help. In a column a week ago, I described neurological evidence from brain scans that altruism lights up parts of the brain normally associated with more primal gratifications such as food and sex. The Salwens’ experience confirms the selfish pleasures of selflessness." (Kristof)

Read Kristof's column here, and pre-order the book here (due out in February).

(P.S. - Kristof writes: "The Salwens also are troubled that some people are reacting negatively to their project, seeing them as sanctimonious showoffs." 

What kind of world have we created, that you might feel guilty for giving?  How fantastic would it be to go to a school reunion, and instead of comparing resumes, spouses and houses, you talk about how you've helped, what charities are worth supporting, who's helping whom.  Maybe I'm off my meds, but this is a reunion I'd actually attend.)

2 comments:

Kevin Salwen said...

Rebecca,
Thanks for a great post. I love you reunion line!! I found myself laughing and nodding at the same time. Anyway, thanks again for telling our story.

Kevin

Rebecca Snavely said...

Kevin,
Thanks for living your story, and telling it to inspire other change. Looking forward to reading the book.

Thanks for stopping by the blog!

Rebecca