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How to Make More Than a Living

By Frank Blake

How can people be so cheerfully, radically generous?

That was my reaction after speaking with Graham and April Tam Smith, the guests on our upcoming episode of Crazy Good Turns.

After you hear their story, which comes out on Sunday, April 7, you may have the same reaction.

What it Means to be Radically Generous

Graham and April aren't two folks you'd typically tag as radicals. They are young professionals living in New York City. But they stand out through their dedication to living a lifestyle of generosity. And that is an understatement.

For example:

  • They spent their honeymoon volunteering in Haiti
  • They've used their salaries and their talents to launch a restaurant called P.S. Kitchen in NYC, which is remarkable because:
    • The restaurant is committed to employing people who are in need of a second chance, such as former addicts or people with criminal records
    • They donate all of the profits from the restaurant to charity
  • They give in many other ways too. In fact, when you total it all up, they do what's called "reverse tithing."

Reverse Tithing: Giving Away (Nearly) Everything

"Tithing" is a term with which you may already be familiar. Traditionally, to tithe means to give away 10 percent of what you earn. That's a laudable achievement, and certainly generous from most perspectives.

But April and Graham flip that equation. They give away 90 percent of what they earn and live on the remaining 10 percent.

To me, that definitely puts the "crazy" in Crazy Good Turn — and does so on a sustaining basis. It is radically generous.

Yet when you hear Graham and April describe their lives, they are very matter-of-fact about their generosity. They are not boastful. They don't go out of their way to draw attention to it. And they never make mention of any difficulties brought about by that lifestyle, or speak of things they've had to give up.

In fact, what was crystal clear in speaking with them was how much they felt their giving enriched their lives.

A Highly Provocative Idea

As I listened to April and Graham, the uppermost thought in my mind was:

These two unassuming people are living one of the most provocative lifestyles I have ever encountered.

They "provoke" because of the confident generosity with which they live their lives. The things they do call into question: Why not me? Why can't I do that? And what could I do to approach that standard?

They are questions I am still reflecting upon. But the first part of an answer, at least for me, can be found in a quote attributed to Winston Churchill:

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."

I hope that when you tune in to April and Graham's story this Sunday, you'll get a sense of their joy in making a life, not just a living.

- Frank

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