Back when I was an undergrad student, a donor was crazy enough – and I mean crazy in an extremely trusting sort of way – to give money to Conrad Grebel College. Perhaps it was a designated gift for student bursaries. In any case, the money provided a travel bursary to send a math student to volunteer as an English teaching assistant in Egypt.
Of course, I was that math student. I was also taking Peace and Conflict Studies, hence the link to the volunteer program that matched me up with long-term Mennonite Central Committee volunteers.
Those four months in Egypt were pivotal in my life. Yes, some kids improved their English but as is always the case in the economics of generosity, I received much more than I gave. Egyptians value hospitality and their generosity was overwhelming, out of all proportion to their limited means.
When I graduated a year later, I sought out a position with a non-profit and began as a computer programmer with World Vision. I soon switched to marketing analysis (did I mention I was a Stats major?) and well, I’ve been working for churches and charities ever since.
I also got married. My husband works faithfully in the corporate world, and that really helps with our generosity. In our first married year, we made a gift to Conrad Grebel to ‘pay back’ the generosity I had received – and we’ve been returning the favour for quite a while. Now our kids benefit from the Grebel community. Again, we receive more than we give in the economics of generosity.
To all you donors out there – you folks who give time, talent and treasure – I am truly grateful. Learning the economics of generosity, where we always receive more than we give, has changed my life.