Way back in the early 1990s I attended what was called a “Basic Retreat” with the then-named Ministry of Money, now Faith and Money Network.
I was newly single with three young kids and truly questioning my values around money. I had more money than most of my divorced friends who also were raising kids, and I felt a bit guilty. I wanted to be generous without being foolhardy. “How much is enough?” was a huge question that surfaced for me on that first retreat.
That retreat helped me become more comfortable with money in general, and specifically, it helped me to see the power of money both individually and collectively. I was truly amazed at the collective wealth that was available if we shared resources.
Receiving and giving
On that same retreat I received a call that my beloved sister-in-law had died. I was not able to be with my children and I was deeply shaken by the news. The retreat leaders held me up and were with me as I grieved, and I experienced their generosity of spirit which helped me learn more deeply that money is not the only way to express generosity. This was very important for me, as I was truly needing to learn more about how to receive, as well as to give.
It was also during this time that I had the opportunity to help many folks with housing, as I had available bedrooms in my home. I had adults, teens, and folks with mental illness living with us at differing times. They each helped me learn how to be more hospitable and generous. Their needs were often so great: One young person in particular had many health issues and no health insurance. I swallowed hard and just kept paying her bills — and I learned there was enough.
None of us ever went hungry, the utility bills got paid, and we got to share much joy with our guest as she recovered.
How much is enough?
In 2001 my then-almost 21-year-old daughter and I took a trip to Haiti with the Ministry of Money’s Women’s Perspective program. This was a daughter who had frequently challenged me to spend more money on “stuff” as she was growing up. She frequently let me know she thought I was cheap for not spending easily. She surely gave me strong invitations to look at my motives for spending or not, as well as evaluating my motive of saving for the business I was planning to open.
“How much is enough?” again surfaced. It is very easy to accept the invitations of culture to purchase needless things and sacrifice shared experiences at the cost of opportunities, such as the gifts of togetherness and skill building that come with cooking meals together at home and doing our own yard work and fixing things instead of buying new or hiring folks to do things such as painting.
In Haiti my daughter learned about real lack in the financial sense, and wonderful community in an entirely different way. We experienced radical hospitality from the Haitian people and we both returned home changed. Our relationship deepened as well.
Here I am now in 2021 – newly single and 70 and again needing to answer the question “how much is enough”? At this stage in my life the question has different directions. Do I have enough to care for myself in old age? What will I leave to charity or to my children? How do I figure that out? What if I make poor choices? It can be just as scary now as when I was much younger.
Fear and trust
In my late 30s when I divorced I found a scripture that upheld me: “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust,” (Mark 5:34). I carried those words in my proverbial pocket and held them tightly like a rock whenever I would become afraid. I continue to go back to that same verse even now as my life and financial circumstances have once again changed. My rock remains consistent as a reminder that I can trust God’s provision and I need not fear. This deep knowing also gives me the freedom to practice generosity.
I made an estate plan including a will and advance directives some time back and I have learned it is not written in stone. I have changed it a couple of times to better reflect where I would like money to go as I gain understanding of the use of money and of my own heart. I continue to deepen my awareness that all is a gift from God and not truly mine. Finding ways to responsibly share God’s riches is quite a thrill! I am blessed beyond measure.
JoAnn Huber | May 24, 2021
JoAnn Huber is a mostly retired clinical social worker and an interfaith minister. She enjoys offering services that help people connect to Spirit and healing in times of life challenges. She is a mom of three and a “Mana” (grandma) of six.