Jeff Shinabarger tells the story of how he moved to a new home in Atlanta and the neighborhood welcoming committee showed up on his doorstep. It was a homeless guy named Clarence who was eager to let the new neighbor know he was “looking for work.” Jeff suddenly saw his life through Clarence’s eyes and realized he had an overabundance of almost everything.
This change in perspective caused Jeff and his wife to engage in a series of social experiments. For instance, after receiving a credit-card bill in January they realized they had overspent at Christmas and didn’t have the means to pay the bill. They cut back their spending and decided to see if they could go for an entire month by eating only the food in the house. They lasted seven weeks without going to the grocery store.
The author also recounts the social experiments of his friends who tried things like going without a car when theirs broke down. In all, the book is an easy to read collection of thought-provoking stories. Some readers have criticized the book for not having enough Christian content, but the author’s goal was not to be preachy. Rather, he wanted to create a sharable book for people regardless of their spiritual comfort level.
I thought personal experiences shared in the book really created a credible message, even more so than quoting a bunch of Bible verses. Rather, the stories made the struggle of determining how much is enough believable and relatable. We all have the tendency to want more and more stuff. Breaking that habit is uncomfortable, at best. By sharing his own challenges, he made it easier for others to embrace the difficulties of defining for ourselves how much is enough.
He also provided thoughtful examples of ways we can benefit others with our excess. It’s not simply about living with less, but about making a difference with the excess we have. Our excess can meet the needs of others if we consider how to make it happen.
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