This post is on thoughtful giving and things I learned from my mom

So maybe I am feeling a little sentimental because of some good things happening in our family, or perhaps it is that school is about to start. The start of school makes me happy for several reasons- the top of which is the arrival of international students in the US. I love getting to meet the students, especially those who have gone through a lot to find themselves here. My heart is filled with hope each time I learn of a young kid coming out of the refugee camps or a kid who has managed to live with very severe disabilities to make it to college. There are many inspiring stories. Common among them is the fact that the world is full of kind of people who donate in cash and in-kind to open doors for others.


I do not want us to become cynical about money. Yes, we must save and achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves, but we are not islands. Do not feel bad if you have more responsibilities than your peers. I think a lot about compound interest these days and I have thought that our big families and the villages we come from or build for ourselves are also a function of compound interest.

One of the things that shocked me the most when I first arrived in America was homelessness. It takes a lot for someone to end up homeless back home. Our families will rather sleep 20 people to a room than have a brother, a cousin, an uncle, or an aunt sleep on the streets.

There was a point when mom’s house was home to at least 15 adults, including an aunt, her husband, and two kids, my sister’s friend and her two kids and so on. I am always indebted to my sister, who made room for me at her home even when their home was already at full capacity with at least six teenage nephews and nieces from her husband’s side.

This is the core of who we are. I know there are many of you hosting new immigrants, friends who find themselves on the street for many reasons and still managing the demands from big families and the politics that come with that. Thank you. I am giving you a big hug.


What I do want us to continue thinking  about is ways in which we balance our responsibilities and grow our money to build generational wealth. While we can’t plan for every emergency and hardship that the world throws our way, we can plan to mitigate the impact of bad things by planning.


Giving lessons from Chipo’s mom

  1. Never pay less than you can afford: There was a trader who sold tomatoes on our street. Amai Beauty was her name. She had four kids around my age. Whenever my mom returned from South Africa, she would bring clothes for her kids and some groceries, so naturally, Amai Beauty always offered my mom a discount on her veggies. My mom always politely declined. Mom explained to me that Mai Beauty needed every penny, and we did not need discounted tomatoes. Even though we had a lovely garden with tomatoes, veggies, corn, oranges (YES!!!), avocadoes (thanks Dad) mom would buy from Mai Beauty.

I get frustrated when I read of FIRE movement people who brag about free-riding on their friend’s Netflix account or always looking to get free yoga classes. People who seek out free yoga classes aggravate me. If you can afford to pay for Netflix or exchange a Netflix password for Hulu/amazon with your friend, then don’t be a douchebag. If you are saving a bunch of your income to grow a net worth of 2 million, you can very well pay $18 for a yoga class. Yoga teachers spend a ton of money on training, so trying to cheat them just to see your net worth numbers grow is an awful thing to do.

  1. Making giving a part of your lifestyle: My mom is a hopeless giver. Before I came to college, I told mom that one of my friends had a full scholarship, but she would likely miss out on school because of the $800 airfare. Mom sent the money. I would later learn that doing so wasn’t easy for her, but mom was adamant that a young girl should not miss out on education because of the cost of an air ticket. I am more like my dad. I try to be a bit more systematic in how I give. I believe that you can set aside a small % of your paycheck towards charitable giving and that % will grow as your income increases.

Think about what you value and give towards that.

  • College giving, I am a beneficiary of generous scholarships from Linfield College. I feel very strongly about giving back – I know that my $20 a month is not worth much – to maximize my donation I itemized the gift and directed it towards a need that is often overlooked by big donors. I have asked that my donations be used to fund textbooks for a low-income international student.
  • Tithing – I have not always been able to tithe, but now that I am working, I love being able to support our church activities. I honestly do not tithe 10% since I distribute my 10% giving allowance across my many passions. My church family is a central part of my life. A healthy church is a gift. I have also been very blessed to be a member of churches that support homeless shelters, food banks, and give scholarships.
  • Supporting family- when I got to college, I decided to help my mom by taking over financial responsibility for a few family members. I chose to pay tuition and provide a food allowance. The need is always greater than I can afford, but I firmly believe that we need to send as many kids to school as we can.
  1. No money – no problem – other ways to give

My mom can be annoying when it comes to preaching about giving and doing for others. Mom says money is not the most significant gift. Every time we talk, mom is running from one volunteer activity to another.

  • Time – I will never forget that my second Sunday in America (many may years ago) I showed up to the first Methodist church I found. My now host mom (had been host mom to a Zim student -my now adopted big sis-) asked if I could teach Sunday school. The Sunday school teacher had suddenly quit. I was happy to do it – what I did not know then was that children’s ministry never has enough volunteers, so I was stuck for four years lol. I didn’t mind. Every Sunday (and later Wednesday evenings) I committed 3 hours. Most parents are happy to have an hour of adult time, and they appreciate having a safe space to drop off their kids. I also learned a lot about America from the middle schoolers, so I was winning too.
  • Habitat for humanity: our church ran a lot of HH programs. We built a ton of houses for low-income families. If you have a habitat for humanity in your town, I highly recommend getting involved. You will learn a lot and have a ton of fun. I also bonded with one of my host moms during our many trips to various homes. A decade-plus later she put together our pre-marriage guide -see you always win
  • Leading volunteer trips- obviously I did not have money to pay for various excursions in college -duh – Zim inflation was in the billion trillion % at the time so yeah. But one free thing is being a team leader, or you pay a reduced rate. People hate leading trips because it is a lot of work! One of my best buddies and I led a trip to the Navajo valley and woow – what an experience. What an experience! I also interviewed for my Carter Center internship during that trip, and the hiring team loved the beat of the pow wow drums in the background lol -YOLO! I got the internship. That experience and that has opened to many doors in my life, including a weekend with President and Mrs. Carter for the husband and me a couple of years ago. I also made life long friends 🙂 our class had some of the best humans I have come to know and love.
  • Random volunteer things- try to give in ways that make you happy. Trust me – it is always worth it.

In summary

  1. Never ask for a discount from someone who needs the money when you can afford to pay full price
  2. Make financial giving a central part of your budget even if it is a small amount. If you are not sure of where to send money may I suggest
    1. The USAP school read their NYTimes feature here
    2. Local churches especially ones with a homeless shelter program and or a food bank
    3. Family members who need a financial boost
    4. Paying tuition for as many little boys and girls as you can
    5. Your alma mater
  3. Give your time – financial giving is just a small part of your giving life
    1. Instead of asking for a discount for services ask if you can exchange labor for a class
    2. Habitat for humanity
    3. Leading volunteer trips
    4. Children’s ministry
    5. Set up and breakdown at events
    6. Tutoring
    7. Big Brother Big Sister programs
    8. Food Bank – they always need people to clean up, organize the food and do deliveries

This week’s TV show suggestions because YOLO

Peaky Blinders

Into the badlands

Family Reunion on Netflix

Glow on Netflix

The funny or not funny JAniston and Adam Sandler movie

Four Weddings and A Funeral on Hulu

I am worried about my TV choices