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Giving away our

Giving away our


How can we rebel against those who would paralyze us with fear? We can open our wallets and give, out Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson told a recent philanthropy conference in West Hollywood

The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson is bishop of the Archdiocese of New Hampshire. The following remarks were given on October 8 at OutGiving, a conference on GLBT giving hosted by the Gill and Liberty Hill foundations.

I grew up in Kentucky. My parents were tobacco tenant farmers--about as close to slavery as white people have come to in this country. When I was born I was completely paralyzed on my right side and my head was all crushed in. The doctors told my father they needed a name for my birth and death certificates, so he took the name that they had picked out for a girl, Vicky Jean, and just changed the spelling, figuring it wouldn't matter on a tombstone. So my actual name is V-I-C-K-Y G-E-N-E. I still can't use my credit cards without people saying, "I'm sorry, sir. You can't use your wife's credit card."

But I lived. I was paralyzed for about a month and then my parents took me home. They were told I would never walk or talk or have any use of myself. The night before my consecration as bishop, my mother--who had always said to me she believed God had saved me for something--gave me a little card. All it said was Now I guess we know what it was. How could I not feel blessed?

This is the time of year when many people try and take stock of how blessed they are. Over the next few weeks, every time you write a check, let it be a reminder to you. Holding awareness of how blessed we are isn't easy. Today, we are getting bamboozled around the security issue. It is meant to scare us. Our anxiety is even color-coded! We are told it's a yellow day, an orange day, a red day. We're not told how to make the anxiety go away or how to protect ourselves. We're just meant to be more anxious. We need to stop being afraid.

There's a lot in scripture about leprosy; in biblical times it was a much feared disease. It affects the nerve endings in your hands and feet. You can put your hand on a red-hot stove and it doesn't communicate to your brain that your skin is on fire. I think it's used so much in the Bible because we all want to insulate ourselves from the pain of the world--whether it be for our GLBT brothers and sisters or just for the world. The trick is to stay connected to the world so that we feel the pain and then make some kind of response to it.

This year let your giving be a rebellious act against those who would paralyze us with fear. Who could have imagined we would live to see the changes we've lived to see these last few years? We mustn't lose that ground. The most surprising thing for me when I finally made the decision to be a "tither" and give 10% of my earnings was to discover that I was the greatest beneficiary. I was the most blessed by that giving, never mind those to whom the money went.

When you're wondering if you're giving enough, I have a rule of thumb: You have to give enough to get your soul's attention. When you're writing out a check, if you don't get a lump in your throat, it's not big enough. Put enough zeros down to remind yourself how really blessed you are.

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