The Giving Experiment is our attempt as a family to create positive ripples. In past posts, I've admitted that we have no idea what we're doing. I guess that is why we went with 'experiment' rather than ‘organization’!
As with any experiment, it started as a question. What is enough?
I'm getting older, and I'm beginning to realize that if I have a question, a struggle, or a problem, I'm certainly not alone. So, what is enough?
"Enough is enough."
Enough is the ability to stop and take stock. To be content with the fruits of one's labor without feeling the need to worry beyond that moment. As parents and individuals, the problem is that we have felt the need to keep up with all the extras. The extras are those things that are always, by a hair, out of reach. The wants that morph into needs just as soon as the previous needs were met. The extras are the things that only deficits can temporarily satisfy. The giving experiment is about taking a break from that merry-go-round for a while. Experimenting with how fulfilled we feel after a year of just focusing on our basic needs and giving the time difference away. Those basic needs constitute food, water, love, shelter, clothing, and artistic mediums for our family. We hope that this experiment will be exciting enough for others to join and support us during the process.
On April 13th, we conducted our first official giving experiment with our community of subscribers. (While following our story, please bear in mind that we want to show the results with as little emotional attachment to the outcome as possible with every test and experiment we conduct. Admittedly, this won't be easy at times.)
Email the 45 people on our mailing list with the story of somebody we know that could use a boost—both moral and financial.
I had recently reconnected with an old childhood friend of mine from Peru that had a baby around the time I was returning to Canada. When we were talking, her story moved me. As a father that has enjoyed firm spousal support, I have always had the utmost respect for single mothers. I have no idea how they do it. What magnifies the situation beyond our first-world comprehension is that there are no food banks in places like Peru. Government supports such as CERB, child tax benefits, and welfare systems are virtually non-existent.
You have children to support, and no supports yourself? Deal with it.
Maria Fernanda is one such woman. With two talented adolescent daughters and a heart for teaching and giving to others, we decided to make her the first benefactor of thegivingexperiment.com.
We sent out a letter to our community telling Maria Fernanda's story, letting people know that her monthly living costs are just $400CAD. This price tag includes her rent, food, children's dance lessons, everything. (Amazing, right?) We set 400.00 as our target and set a 24-hour window where all donations received would be earmarked to provide her a lifeline from her friends up here in Canada.
We figured this was very doable and would break down to an easy 10.00/person. (I had actually thought our mailing list was only 19, turns out there were 45 subscribed at that point.)
Emails sent: 45
Donations received: 1
Total donations: $20
We had a lot of talking about it going on in our home. Temporarily, we became emotionally attached to the results.
In the end, we decided this project was all very new to people, to not be disappointed. I had a moment where I got mad at everyone I saw open the email and then decided not to act. Then, I realized how wrong I was for doing so. Sorry guys! I just want to be honest about the procedure. I took a while to process the emotions.
I then sent out one more email simply providing the results. It was not a manipulation tactic. It was not to guilt anyone into giving. It is an experiment, and we want to report results to the people interested enough to subscribe.
The following day I decided that I had to take ownership of my own convictions. Maria Fernanda was my friend and on my heart. How could I expect others to feel the same? Everyone knows someone in need. Why should my heart's priorities trump anyone else's? Initially, we figured we would put in 50 towards the 400 dollar target. However, I had just sold my cordless air nailer the day before and felt we should give 150.00. Stay with me; here's the cool part: having completed a transfer of 170.00, as I left the Western Union, I looked at my phone and saw donations starting to come in. In total, we raised 340.00 as a community for this dear woman. So, two transfers of 170.00 were sent. Impressive for our first crack at it!
The only rule we've come up with for benefactors is that 10% of the money must be given to someone else. She had no idea any of this was coming her way! I promptly received a voice message filled with tears of joy and gratitude. She shared with me that she would now be able to fix a bicycle that she had long promised her girls repairs on. "Please pass on an enormous, heartfelt thank you to all that have made this possible."
1) The biggest thing for me was learning to take action on my convictions before receiving affirmations from others. The moment I took action on what I felt was the right thing to do, support ensued. Not the other way around. Many times we wait for affirmations before taking action. If you know what the right thing to do is, do it.
2) I asked Maria Fernanda what the best part of the gift to her was. She responded that the most exciting part was the 10% rule. There is joy in giving.
3) That we want to keep doing this. Over and over and over again. So cool! An (almost entire) month's worth of living expenses gift to anyone without excess income is nothing short of life-changing.
I'll close with that. Here is a picture of Maria's young family and the thank you letter (and translation) she wrote to all the subscribers.
"AREQUIPA, PERU April 15th, 2021 My name is Maria Fernanda, I am 34 years old. I have two daughters and they are my motivation. The eldest, Brisa, is 16 years old. Ilanah, the youngest will be 9 soon. At the moment we are living separated because of the circumstances that life has laid before us. Love, thanks to God, is the one thing that has never been in scarcity. Kindness and friendship have followed us and help us keep pushing forward.
I'm a psychologist by profession. But my work is independent. That's to say that each month is uncertain. We live day-to-day, it's a total experience. In our country, Peru, the pandemic has brought us much poverty. More than there already was. All of us that don't have stable work are pushed to use a lot of creativity to be able to sustain our economy and the opportunities we want to give ourselves. The 3 of us ladies hold art very close to our hearts. It gives me faith and hope that always stays alive. When Owen wrote me to tell me about you and your donation and what you had done as part of a beautiful project, I was left so surprised and full of gratitude. I was thankful to him for his initiative in thinking about me. To all of you that gave, you have all my gratitude. I want you all to know that this support is so well received. For my daughters and me, it is a huge help. This helps us solidify our dreams. Brisa has an old bicycle that was also given to her by someone else a long time ago. We wanted to repair it for such a long time but we didn't have the money. Thanks to your donation, at last! We will have that bike running like new. What we will do with the rest of the money we have still not decided but, you will know when we do. Something enchanting to me about the project was having to donate the % to someone I felt needed it more than I do. Thank you for helping me help others. There are lots of people here that need it. I have already decided that it will go to a lady that sells food in front of my daughter's school. She is always cold. Thank you for appearing in my life, in my journey. Thank you for your donation, your love, your big hearts, and for keeping hope alive for those that need it. Mafer"
On behalf of all of us at thegivingexperiment.com, thank you for making this possible! Your subscriptions, shares, and comments are all a HUGE encouragement to what we are doing and to the direction we are choosing to steer our dear family in.
Sneak peek into next post: Giving Experiment goes local! We gathered 6 families together to divide a local woman's yard work up and completely transformed her yard in a matter of hours. I will be sharing her story and the circumstances that led us to this great moment of giving!
Owen Dargatz is a father of 5 and husband of 1. He has recently discovered how much he loves to write and share his thoughts with the world. Having grown up with three sisters in Peru, he has a unique perspective on family life, culture, and the importance of sharing with those with less. His wonderful wife Christina is a talented artist. Check out her Art Page here. Owen also thinks it's super weird to write about himself in the third person. So he's going to stop now.
Love what we're doing? (We do.) Check out this post to see how you can get involved and further support our experiment.