Fribble Wednesday, December 22, 1999

A Charitable Perspective

By Andy Erickson (

I really am the luckiest man alive. I have a beautiful wife of six years, two wonderful children, a home, a couple of cars, and a great job where I spend my days constantly learning. Never mind that my home is 75 years old and missing storm windows, one of my cars is a six year old mini-van with a cracked windshield and in need of a new timing belt, and the other was recently in a minor accident where the perpetrator simply drove away from the scene. Never mind that I have an hour commute each way to my workplace. Never mind that one of my girls wakes up almost nightly with bad dreams -- I really don't need the sleep. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. And I mean it.

I'm lucky enough that my wife can stay at home with our children. I'm grateful for my many close friends who have helped us and taught us how to be married and raise respectful children. I am aware of how close I am to being on the streets, and that a wonderful twist of fate has kept me off them. I am aware that less than one percent of the world's population has the opportunity to get a college education let alone take advantage of it. I understand the work involved to keep a marriage great, and I am aware that just one bad decision could destroy the entire foundation.

I've been given so much, the least I can do is give something back.

When I turned 18 I began giving about 10 percent of my income to charity. Granted this wasn't very much at first -- I was only working at Subway on a limited basis -- perhaps a few hundred dollars a year. But this giving helped me develop some very good habits. We have not just learned, but have been forced, to live below our means. We have learned to be content with what we have. We have learned that we need to sacrifice to save and reach our goals. We have learned of the joy others get from receiving our gifts. Most of all we have learned that joy, stability, and freedom come from the relationships around us and not from the things we have.

My wife and I now give about 15 percent of my income to charity each year, that is about $7,000 this year. On top of that we have a number of college students in our home each week for a good home-cooked meal. We give our time to local charities and teach our children to do the same. We look at our budget to find ways to give even more. How could we do anything less, we have been given so much.

The other night my wife and I were lamenting over our budget for 2000. How could we afford to fix the van? We barely make ends meet let alone spend lavishly for anything. I suppose you could add to this list the millions of real dollars that I'm forgoing in the long run by donating today, and the extra bedroom and family room, replacement windows, and insulation that I'm giving up by living where I do.

Don't worry about me, though. The same twist of fate that has kept me off the streets also guided me to Fooldom. I can accomplish so much more with what little I have in part due to the wisdom I've found in these pages. I'm on track to have about $10 million when I retire and I only expect it to grow after that. So for now I'll look for a way to fix the van, but never at the expense of the joy of giving.

If you look deep enough I'll bet you can find a wee bit more to give.

Foolanthropy '99!

There are only 10 days left to make a donation to Foolanthropy '99. This year's Fool charity drive features five great organizations. Now is definitely the time to donate, too, because some generous Fools have offered to match the total contributions made this week. So, you can make your dollar count twice as much! No contribution is too small. Please read the details here.