A Gift in the Spirit of St. Francis

May 31, 2011

Sometime last year, our friend Charlie Hess started a practice of making a donation to a good cause -- every single day.  On May 7th, we got ourselves got tagged!  The cover letter beautifully read ... 

We are the San Damiano community, named after the little church that Francis built with his own hands.  And like St. Francis, we ask for nothing in return for our financial gifts -- no tax benefit to us, no reporting back on how recipients make use of the contribution.  Each day of the year, we make a financial contribution to a different individual or organization.  We believe that by giving to you, we are knitting our lives to yours and to those you serve.  Our hope is that this circle of giving and caring will ripple out across the global community, eventually making all of us, as St. Francis hopes, instruments of peace.  

  Noemi, who runs Stay Inspired, added a personalized letter as well ... 

Dear San Damiano Daily Giving Community,

I first met Nipun Mehta, founder of CharityFocus, when I started working for Stay Inspired. His "office" is Royal Grounds, a coffee house in Berkeley, CA. My sister and two nieces came along. I figured it’s never too early to introduce the idea of inspired service to kids. The first rule is no one pays for anything in Nipun’s office -- so hot chocolates and coffees for all.

Nipun’s second gesture, after beverages, was to ask what he could do for us. We arranged for him to speak in July 2009, coinciding with his trip to the New York area. He introduced Smile Cards to my nieces, and got them thinking about random acts of kindness. He gave them a children’s book about inspired service from a kid’s point of view, to share with their school. He arranged for me to get about 30 meditation booklets from the Berkeley Buddhist monastery, to give at our events. He answered my sister's questions about how to give to needy children in India (she had just seen "Slumdog Millionaire").

From its very inception the focus of CharityFocus has been on the inner change that comes when people take the opportunity to act selflessly. CharityFocus strives to be an incubator of compassionate action by enabling everyday heroes – people just like us – with the opportunity to serve. CharityFocus is an experiment in the joy of giving.

In 1999, CharityFocus began by building free websites for nonprofits. [...] CharityFocus is completely volunteer run, and the services of its volunteers are absolutely free.

I left the meeting full of ideas, and with great speaker for our event. My nieces left with a new understanding of how small acts of kindness really do matter. My sister left with a concrete way to help children around the world.

That is the spirit of St. Francis!


Many CF'ers have long known and supported Charlie, Noemi and Stay Inspired community -- and yet the personal story, the no-strings-attached offering, context of St. Francis, all made for a touching experience.  Coincidentally, we recently met two special friends -- Terry and Annie -- who have profoundly dedicated more than 50 years of their lives to nurturing the values of St. Francis.  Since they are just starting a project in their East Oakland community, it feel perfectly timed to pay-forward this special contribution and blessing to their work.


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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."