Friend’s Financial Gift Challenges, Humbles, and Inspires

The notification on my phone made me stop talking, mid-sentence.

$500 had been added randomly to my Venmo account by a close friend who wanted to invest in the work of 55 and Love, the soon-to-be-nonprofit that my family is establishing to help provide needed resources to people who are homeless or living in extreme poverty in Central Mississippi and beyond.

Because I know this friend well and we often talk business together, I have a sense of how much money she is bringing in at work this year. I knew that the gift, while not bankrupting, was certainly generous – sacrificial. 2020 has not been a great year for most small business owners, including those in education.

The gift of my friend, Marina Gilmore, silenced me for several minutes. It took processing, somehow.

Then, I walked around the house, quietly telling each member of my family about her generosity.

“Wow!” my daughter said. “We really need to make sure we have a clear plan for how we want to spend that and when.”

“Should she have done that?” my son asked, brow furrowed. He sat quietly, his brown-green eyes searching my face for several seconds. “I mean, I love Marina. Does she need that money? It seems like she might need it?”

My husband, ever the caretaker of my female friends, expressed similar concerns. “She’s sure this is what she wants to do?”

After I adjusted to the news, I set about with intentionality. There was something about such a sacrificial gift that made me want to make sure I gave it the attention it deserved. It’s a feeling I have felt previously, when others also dug deep to donate.

We have talked as a family about wanting to establish 55 and Love as a nonprofit before the end of the year, but honestly, other pressing things have taken priority. I wasn’t so sure it would happen – or even begin to happen.

Not anymore.

Tomorrow, we are meeting with a friend who has established several nonprofit organizations. We will talk to him – and among ourselves – about exactly how we want to establish ourselves and about our ultimate vision for this group.

Then, we will set to work, establishing the nonprofit as economically as we can. It will be a renewed focus in the new year, regardless of the challenges of the pandemic and our own lives.

My beautiful, bright, generous friend also sent me a second gift – $300 to give to someone who I believe can use it. For some reason, I immediately knew I wanted to give it to a small business owner and classmate I know in Meridian, Mississippi.

She will use part of the money for her business, and part to get a graduation dress for her precious daughter, who is a senior this year and faces some unique challenges.

When I told my teenagers about this gift, which came rapid-fire after the first, they both paused.

“Wow,” my daughter said. “How does Marina know that we will do the right thing with the money? She really trusts us.”

And I think there is something very revealing in those words. There is something about a financial gift that is especially humbling – almost to the point of being mildly uncomfortable. It’s an expression of faith and trust, and I plan to continue working to honor and even extend it.

Because of the example Marina set, we also have been more intentional this week in our own giving, sending a few financial happies to people we know could use them.

If I’m honest, financial giving has never been a strength of mine. I’m far more willing to give my time or my talents than my money. On some level, this comes from a scarcity mentality, where I fear not having “enough” for the things we believe we need.

I’m going to do better in the new year. And whenever I think of the establishment of 55 and Love as a non-profit, I will think of its beautiful start, and the deep, abiding faith of my dear friend.

Thank you, Marina. You make me – and all of us – better.