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Monthly giving: for gratitude, stewardship, and spirit

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2016 September Issue Newsletter

By Allison Beatty-Maynard and Bob Banning

Photo by Heylen. Available under a Creative Commons License.

We recently expanded our giving opportunities to include an option to donate monthly to NOFA/Mass. Monthly giving is a great way to help us sustain our programs all year long. A handful of faithful donors are already supporting us in this way. Enclosed is a letter from one such NOFA/Mass member.

Dear friends of NOFA Massachusetts:

For a couple of years I have been experiencing joy from giving money to NOFA/Mass every week, and I’d like to tell you why, in case you might discover that you, too, could find joy in doing this.

I am a Christian, and what I do is, every Sunday, the usual day of public worship for me, I write two checks, one to put in a basket during the worship service and the other for NOFA. I keep the NOFA checks in an envelope and mail them once a month to save postage.

I follow the same pattern for my giving to NOFA as I do for giving to my church because I consider both kinds of giving to be spiritual acts reflecting spiritual decisions, which spring from my deepest values, my beliefs about what’s at the heart of the cosmos and about my place in it. Although as a Christian I realize I may be in a minority in NOFA, I suspect that you and I have a lot in common, spiritually.

In my worldview, every living creature has a destiny that consists precisely of being itself, of living according to its nature. Although the nature of each creature is complex and mysterious, it seems to me that that nature consists basically of seeking what one needs by interacting with other creatures, both living and nonliving. For creatures that eat, eating good food is fundamental to being yourself. I yearn for a world in which humans seek and find what they need and what delights them, including good food, while fostering conditions in which other creatures can also fulfill their natures. I think this is pretty close to what Jewish people would call shalom.

A couple of years ago I realized that although NOFA is not my church, its mission expressed my spiritual values: “to expand the production and availability of nutritious food from living soil for the health of individuals, communities and the planet”—I believe that the kind of world that that mission leads to is the kind of world God wants.

My decision to give to NOFA weekly was prompted also by another value I learned from my tradition: gratitude. Ever since my mother gave me birth, everything good in my life has been a gift. Even my strengths and achievements (such as they are) are gifts, since I could never have developed those strengths or attained those achievements without the love of God, a bountiful, beautiful earth, and people. For me, to know this is to be profoundly grateful, to feel that my whole life is a thank-you, and to recognize that I don’t own anything. And all of that affects how I think about how much of my money I should use on myself and how much I should give away.                                                                               

I’m also motivated by faith. I don’t know the future, whether I might someday regret giving away as much money as I have given. I don’t know how NOFA (or my church) spends every penny of the money I give; I don’t have firsthand knowledge as to how effective NOFA’s activities in pursuit of its mission. But I know enough about what NOFA—its leaders and its members—stands for that I feel that the faith that moves me to give regularly to NOFA is well founded. In my tradition, applying faith to money decisions means that after you’ve taken due account of the math, of your abilities, circumstances, and relationships, you commit to giving generously to God’s kingdom, partly through the church, and you decide to give that amount first, and satisfy your needs with what’s left.

The reason I choose to give weekly and to write a check, with my hand, follows from all of the above. If NOFA and I are partners in working toward a world of shalom, if my money doesn’t really belong to me but I am, instead, a steward of it, if I have faith that although the future is mysterious, my contribution to a better future can make a difference, then I want that contribution to be a frequent, conscious, active one—not a payment that I partly hide from myself so it won’t hurt too much, like a donation by credit card or debit from my bank account; not a payment at the end of the year to minimize the pain of taxes. As a person who is both body and spirit, I need to continually rehearse to myself what I believe and I need to continually support that rehearsal with actions of my body, like writing a check and putting “shalom” in the memo.

There are other things I might like to do with the money I give to NOFA. I think about that sometimes. My conclusion is always the same: if I really think I “need” that money for something else, there are things I don’t need that I could give up without significant hardship before I would withdraw my weekly donation to NOFA. Anyway, that’s my conclusion when I’m honest.

Many of you who receive this note are not Christians, but I think you know what I’m talking about. You love the earth, you’re deeply grateful and faithful, you think bodies are wonderful, you have slowed down long enough to reflect on how good the gift of life is. If you believe NOFA stands for these things too, isn’t that a kind of spiritual bond between you and NOFA? If so, then might it not be a source of joy for you to make a frequent habit (a ritual?) of giving money to NOFA, for the things we need money for?

Think it over.

Looking forward,

Bob Banning

fellow NOFA member

To become a NOFA/Mass Sustainer and give monthly to our organization, click here.

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