A few Sundays ago, Parade magazine featured their story. Since I am working on a book to describe my journey through grief after my father died through my 1000 mitzvahs project, my husband figured I would be interested in reading their story and learning about their forth coming book, the Power of Half.
The Salwen family of four lives in Atlanta. A few years ago, while waiting at a stop light, their 14-year-old daughter Hannah commented to her father about the unfairness of life when she saw a man driving a black Mercedes on one side of the street and a homeless man begging for food on the other.
Later, when Hannah continued this conversation at home with her mother, her mom asked what she might want to do, “Sell their house?”
Eventually that is what they did, selling their 6,000 square foot home and relocating to one half the size and pledging to give $800,000 to several programs in about 40 villages in Ghana.
When I first read this article I thought it was an amazing story. However, my husband like many others have had some differing opinions. He commented that most of us don’t live in 6,000 square foot homes and can’t easily sell our luxurious homes for ones that are more reasonably sized. He pointed out that our current home is still smaller than the Salwens “modest” home. Second, does sharing a story like this really inspire people or make it seem like the Salwen’s are show-offs.
Perhaps most of us don’t have a luxurious home we can downsize from. So what? Does that belittle what this family decided to do. Absolutely not, they reached a point where what they were doing wasn’t working and wanted to find another normal. Through this experience they have found a way to connect more fully with each other – they discovered their luxury home actually made them more disconnected with each other.
Even if the average American family can’t duplicate this kind of giving, maybe a few can. Their story has already inspired another family. The family who sold them their new home committed $100,000 to the Salwen’s project. So maybe it takes a crazy wealthy family to use their wealth in new ways, to impress on others that it’s not all about the stuff you have in this world. By sharing their story they just might help other families in that financial category to make some changes too. We really never know how we can influence others. Personally, I think it’s great that the Salwen’s decided to share their story. Even if it isn’t replicable but the masses, it’s their story and it’s certainly one worth telling.