The gift of giving

July 9, 2018 by Maggie Harmon

Editor's note: Maggie Harmon has joined the Presbyterian Foundation as our Ministry Relations Officer for the Southwest. Maggie works with churches and ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) located in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.

Maggie’s experience includes 20 years of legal practice, management consulting, and leadership coaching. She is a member of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Calif. and serves on the Beacon and Celebration committees. Maggie holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California—Davis and a Juris Doctorate from the Santa Clara University School of Law. She also has certification in leadership, organizational growth, and social science from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Maggie provided this month's column on stewardship for our Stewardship Ministry blog. You can reach Maggie at 866-860-3383 or 

Welcome, Maggie! 

By Maggie Harmon

Maggie Harmon
Maggie Harmon, Ministry Relations Officer for the Southwest

Once there was a monk who lived in a simple cottage on the edge of the woods. He owned very little and he spent most of his time in contemplation. One night a thief climbed through an open window and started rummaging around. The monk sat unobserved in the corner of the room. He saw that the thief was in tattered clothes and he felt the cold wind as it blew around the cottage. Seeing that the man was thin and bedraggled the monk stood up and removed his cloak. “Here,” he said to the thief, “take this so that you won’t be cold.” Shocked by the sudden appearance of the man the thief took the gift and fled. “Ah, poor man,” said the monk as he gazed at the full bright moon, “he has nothing and here I have all of these blessings.”

Most of us live much more comfortably than the monk, and yet we often feel less contentment with what we have. The truth is we probably have much more than we can ever use, and much more than we realize. Just look at the number of storage units being constructed, or drive around a neighborhood and see how many people can’t park their car in the garage because of all the “stuff” stored there. We have an abundance of things that we don’t use, can’t use, or don’t know what to do with; yet we live in a society that tells us we need to keep acquiring more things.

Enough to share

How many of us can look deeply at ourselves and see that we have enough to share? The good news is that without having to go to the extreme of our ascetic monk or experience any real deprivation, we can still give generously to support others.

Taking the time to plan your generosity allows you to make sure that you can take care of yourself, your family, and the community without feeling anxiety or loss. Most of us do not have to give the only cloak we have, we can reach into the metaphorical closet of our possessions and give the extra cloaks that we have been saving, “just in case.”

Planned giving means many things from structured gifts during life to bequests that are realized after passing.The kind of giving vehicle you choose may have the benefit of supporting multiple people or organizations – thus expanding generosity beyond just one gift. A charitable lead trust gives resources to a nonprofit organization for a specified number of years and then reverts to an individual or individuals. A simple bequest of 5 or 10 percent of your estate at the end of life can be the basis for supporting programs that will continue to benefit a community long into the future and allows you care for family as well. We can literally share our wealth.

We all have something that we can give, and most of us have more than we think. The monk in the story experienced gratitude in a deeply generous way, seeing blessings in more than just his possessions. We may strive toward that deep generosity of spirit, but in the meantime, we can recognize how much we have and act intentionally in sharing those blessings. “A gift opens doors; it gives access to the great.” (Proverbs 18:16) By giving generously with purpose we can appreciate how much we truly have and how many blessings we have received.

The Presbyterian Foundation can help you reach your charitable and planned giving goals. Contact us at 1-800.858-6127.