Becoming the Change

Steve Graybill, a member of the ‘Tension Dwellers Anonymous’ group from Washington D.C. shared this story of a need they were able to meet:

A number of years ago I read Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change.  This book asks two simple questions:  What are the biggest problems in the world today? and What does Jesus say about these problems?  As followers of Christ who proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is here.” these are questions that we need to ask ourselves on a daily basis.  Moreover, we need to do more than ask the question; we need to find solutions.

As I begin to answer the first question, I find myself quickly overwhelmed to the point where I feel powerless because of what seems to be an endless list of problems: HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in my home city of Washington DC not to mention the issue of HIV/AIDS worldwide; There are close to 6000 homeless people in my home City of Washington DC; There is an oppressive occupation in Israel and Palestine, myriad wars around the world that destroy life, oppressive justice systems that put people to death rather than recognizing that our Father is a father of restoration and reconciliation; Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day, there are multitudes without clean drinking water on our planet and there are 30 million people either in slavery or sexually trafficked or both.  And all of this just scratches the surface.

At the start of this year I was in a rut spiritually; angry at God for all of these injustices that are taking place in his creation.  I was also frustrated that I could not solve all these problems—I am not God after all.  To be honest, I am still angry at the injustices that we see each day and I still often want to point the finger at God.  However, as I entered this Lenten season and decided to only drink water and coffee for my liquids—difficult for someone who loves Gatorade and likes to enjoy a daily beer or two or three—things began to shift for me.

First off, I had the thought that perhaps the enemy wants us to answer the first question that McLaren asks in his book and actually think that it is our responsibility to solve all of those problems individually.  The enemy does this because it knows that by doing so we will be rendered helpless knowing full well that we are just not capable of that and therefore we will just dwell on those problems in our head and never take any action whatsoever.

Second, I was reminded of a couple of rather pithy statements and 1 Corinthians 12, which discusses spiritual gifts and that each of us has a role to play.  I recall Shane Claiborne sharing a brief story of someone confronting God with the question: “Why don’t you do something about all this suffering in the world?”  To which God responds: “I did!  I made you!”  Of course that can easily put one back with taking all of the troubles of the world on their own shoulders, but then I was reminded another pithy statement: “Do for one what you would like to do for many.”

The beauty in doing for one what you would like to do for many is that it requires relationship—generally you must know one person to help one person—when you look at the actions of Jesus we find that he often focuses on doing something for one person, and he does that through personal interaction.  This is how Common Change works.

Our Common Change group recently had our quarterly dinner gathering.  Essentially, we are a group of 5 affluent westerners—one of us is a South African transplant.  During this dinner that took place the first week of Lent I was amazed and challenged by the community we had in discussing the challenges of being the hands and feet of Christ.  As affluent white people we did not see ourselves as the saviors but felt the conviction of being the oppressors.  We also shared the difficulties and challenges of creating relationships outside of our economic strata.  Most of all though, we felt that we were a community and felt that we were the church during that time—there was richness and depth to our gathering that I have rarely experienced.  I love the epigraph on my friend Valerie Anderson’s email which I think describes our group well: “We are not thinking our way into a new way of acting but acting our way into a new way of thinking.”

Just this week we were able to meet the need of a friend of ours through our Common Change Group.  My wife and I did a homeless challenge last summer where we spent 72 hours living on the streets to experience what it is like to be homeless.  During the evening you have a homeless or formerly homeless “guide” who essentially stays awake the entire night so that you can sleep and not have to worry about being mugged.  Steve Thomas was one of those guides for us.  Recently we saw through Facebook that he needed a walker because of health issues that affect his mobility.  We reached out and talked to him.  The walker is currently in a box in our dining room waiting to be assembled and we have plans to deliver it this Monday while we share a meal with our friend Steve and our other Common Change group members.

We will have done for one what we would like to do for many!

One group. Many needs.

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Inspired by the Concept of Common Change? Check.

Signed up, started a group, filled it with your friends? Check.

Started depositing money on a regular basis and have built up a nice group fund? Check.

But now it’s been two months since the last need was submitted and there are no obvious needs staring you in the face. What’s a group to do?

Well fortunately for you, we have seen over $500 000 dollars worth of needs shared over the last 9 years of doing this both formally and informally and so here are some suggestions of types of needs you may not have thought about:

25 IDEAS FOR TYPES OF NEEDS YOUR GROUP MIGHT CHOOSE TO MEET

1] Extract the pain – Share the burden of a friend’s expensive dental procedure.

2] Instead of flowers – Defray funeral costs for a neighbor’s loved one.

3] Give the gift of sleep – Sponsor a weekend getaway for new parents.

4] Ease the Pain – Grief Counselling for a friend in mourning.

5] Help launch a Future- Pay for SAT coaching classes for a student.

6] Invest in a Marriage -Professional Marital Counselling sessions for a struggling couple.

7] New Job? – Professional work clothes for the first day on the job.

8] Extend Hospitality – Language classes for a newly arrived refugee family. 

9] Celebrate a new birth – Put together a gift package of diapers, formula and toys.

10] Keep the Lights on – Pay a friend’s utility bill.

11] Keep communication open – Cover a friend’s phone bill for the month.

12] Fan the flame – Send your married friends on a romantic date.

13] Cheer on a student – Send a gift package to them in the lead up to exams.

14] Growing a family – Cover the adoption costs for a couple navigating the process.

15]  Support Education – Buy School Supplies at the start of a new year.

16] Climb on the bus – Buy a monthly bus pass to help make the commute to work.

17] Patron the Arts – Extra music lessons for a friend’s child during the Summer.

18] Celebrate a life – Throw a birthday party for a neighbor’s child.

19] Promote Independence – Assist a teenager with driving lessons.

20] Share the Burden – Help a friend with medical co-pays.

21] Travel Safe – Cover annual car maintenance fees.

22] Give Breathing Room – Purchase a month’s groceries.

23] Sustainable Income – Help launch a new business with startup money.

24] A Second Chance – Pay first three months rent for someone fresh out of prison. 

25] Equip and Inspire – Technical skills training for a young adult.

Is there someone in your life who has a need like one of these?

This is what being part of a Common Change group is all about.

What are you waiting for? Time to get posting.

This time is different

 Did you ever know of a friend who was in need, but not have the opportunity to help them in any tangible way? 

Just over a year ago I found myself in that situation. I had some friends who were suddenly in a really difficult situation and normally would have only been able to say to them, “I’m really sorry and I will pray for you.”

But this time it was different!

Thanks to being part of a Common Change group.

How it works is that some friends of mine and I regularly pool money together to create a common fund.   So when my friends were in need, I was able to share that with my group. As a result we were able to get directly involved by sending them a gift which was really able to help them out.

Common Change empowered me to assist my friends financially while walking alongside them during a tough time.  To find out more how you can pool money together with people you know and give it to people you care about, I give you three options:

Goodcontact me,
Better, check out Common Change,
Bestfill out this form to stay up-to-date with Common Change and have someone contact you if you would like specific help.

 

Celebrating April

1 year after launching the Alpha version of Common Change, we have just had a record month of benevolence. Collectively we shared $10, 654.99 to meet needs around us!

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This month, Common Change groups did the following:

  • – Helped repair two vehicles
  • – Paid utility bills for a friend facing disconnection
  • – Supported a young man’s music career by fixing a donated piano
  • – Journeyed alongside seminary students through a gift of kindness
  • – Helped a son travel home to his father’s funeral
  • – Helped a women home from prison to get her first apartment
  • – Bought pain patches for a young boy in chronic pain
  • – Supported a group of young people in a South African township in uplifting their community
  • – Paid for a young man’s last year of schooling
  • – Helped with medical bills as a couple welcomed a new member to their family
  • – Paid hospital fees for a man hit by a motorcycle
  • – Purchased a walker for a homeless friend
  • – Walked alongside a group of people in repairing their village and re-establishing self-sufficiency after a fire left thousands homeless

From California to Cape Town, Arizona to Texas to the Philippines to Canada to Ghana – these ordinary individuals practiced extraordinary benevolence, connecting in tangible ways to journey alongside people they know and love.

If you’re part of a Common Change group, let these stories inspire you to look around for where next you can journey with people you know.

If you’re not yet part of a group, what is stopping you? To get started, contact us today!

 

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