Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Power of Half

A few days ago I finished the book The Power of Half: One Family's Decision To Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin Salwen and his daughter, Hannah Salwen.

This book is a non-fiction account of how their family has tried/is trying to make a difference in the world. The Salwen family is one who is very affluent -perhaps the most noticeable sign of their weath is their two milion dollar home. However, one day Hannah, a teenager, noticed a homeless man outside of the car window, while also noticing someone driving a Lexus just one lane over. The difference in each person's means was very obvious. And Hannah wanted to do something to change things. After careful consideration and much discussion the Salwen family decided to downsize their home and move to one worth only half as much as their present home, donating the rest to a charity where they would actively participate in the change they wanted to be a part of.

There are many things in this book I liked - the fact that the Salwens truly do want to make a change, and by reading this, it makes people examine their own lives and the legacy they would like to leave. To be remembered only for the possessions accumulated seems to be a worthless existence. While the Salwens knew great wealth, even the middle class in America are far wealthier than much of the world, making it possible for everyone to give in some way for the betterment of humanity. This book reads like a story, although there are helpful hints interspersed throughout and Hannah's portion of the book provides different ideas about volunteering and getting families involved.

However, I'm a tough audience, and I have a hard time getting over the fact that anyone would spend two million dollars on a home and that downsizing by half means that they still have a home worth one million dollars....While the Salwens are helping others with their generosity, a one million dollar home still seems extravagant and perhaps a bit out of touch with the reailty I live. I would be much more impressed with a family who is middle class living on $30,000 a year and donating the rest to charity or founding an organization within their community where they could actively make a difference. It is interesting that the Salwens who have a great deal of money have received a great deal of attention for their act of charity and have written a book about this, therefore gaining more attention and money, while others can be charitable without looking for any kudos for themselves.

So, would I recommend this book? I know I focused less on the writing/story and more on my feelings about the Salwen's experience, but I do think this book will at least get people thinking about their own life and a way they can contribute. And the Salwens experience is still interesting and a way to remind us of the many people who try to make a difference each and every day.
Visit The Power of Half website.

1 comment:

Peaceful Reader said...

I think their intentions are good-just way out of step with most of us. Glad you read the whole thing.