Give it away, give it away now

I’ve been working with home schooled writing students for well over a decade, first in the venue of support/enrichment groups, then in classes held in my living room, and finally via e-mail tutorials. One of my favorite assignments is an essay based on the question: “How would you give away a million dollars?” I have a couple of rules: students can’t give this money to a family member – or their own local church; they need to choose at least 3 different destinations for their financial gift (this gets me a structured, classic five-paragraph essay to evaluate); they need to be specific. I tell them, “Don’t just tell me you want to help people in Africa – tell me which country in Africa, tell me which organization located there and what kind of work they do, tell me why you choose this particular organization, and tell me how you expect this organization to use your donation.”

This assignment is based on an editorial I’d read in World magazine in 1999, penned by Marvin Olasky. In it, he details how he’d give away a billion dollars. A billion is a ridiculously unimaginable number, so I scaled back the figure to a nice, manageable million.

I’ve had kids doing this assignment for the last 7 or 8 years – and I’ve read dozens and dozens of these essays during that time. Students have donated their imaginary money to numerous missions agencies, cancer research, homeless shelters, and animal rescue organizations, along with the occasional homeschool basketball team. I’ve had a great time reading these essays, and pushing the kids to dream about giving to others.

So maybe, as we enter this Advent/Christmas season (which tends to be all about getting and buying, as well as eating and eating some more) here’s a daydreaming assignment for YOU:


I’d love to see your list. Even better, you don’t have to write an essay! Just a list. 🙂
I’ll post mine to get you started:

– Supporting missionary friends of ours who work with immigrant Muslims and Hindus here in Chicago, as well as overseas.

Emmaus Ministries – I did a profile of this amazing outreach to male prostitutes for Charisma magazine a couple of years ago.

– A hospice organization like Vitas, the people who served my mom so well.

Revive Israel – a ministry based in Israel focused on evangelism, prayer and worship.

– A scholarship for a few needy students attending the ministry school at the International House of Prayer.

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  • Amy

    I’d invest part of it into my new business that is partnering with organisations in Cambodia to help disadvantaged women.
    I give some directly to those organisations – Check out the Daughter’s Project (see link on my blog), they work with women wishing to exit the sex industry in Cambodia.
    I’d give some to She Rescue home, they are working to house, love & rehabilitate girls under 12 who have been rescued from trafficking – again in Cambodia (I’m seeing a theme)
    I’d love to see some given to our local council to get emergency accomodation for those in crisis FINALY happening…
    I think I need more than a million…can I have the billion please!?

  • Jessica

    i think i’d give a lot to you meish. then you can buy a brand new 2009 car that is reliable and won’t die. 🙂
    and then … i’d give money to the andersons (sort of as back rent for all the months they’ve let me live here for free and all the food i eat)
    and then … i’d build a girls home and pay someone to be the financial advisor.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Hey Amy – I can easily front you a billion imaginary dollars. 🙂

    To both of you – I love your ideas to help women. (A car doesn’t count on the list.)