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The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back Excerpt from The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

by Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen

Hannah's Take: Starting a Family Conversation

Many people tell me they can't believe how much my family talks about issues. This can be especially shocking for people who often know my silly side. But for my family, dinnertime brings us together during crazy weeks filled with school and sports and work. Even if your family is rarely together during the week because of conflicting schedules, make sure to have meals or time together over the weekend. Then the trick is to find something that every member can have an interest in.

In our family, we look for ways to expand events into discussions. For example, a TV show about a celebrity's mansion I saw one night led to a conversation about why Americans (including us sometimes) become fascinated with celebrities. A couple of things I saw online gave me plenty to think about and discuss with my family.

If the environment is your thing, try going to and watch Annie Leonard's video about where the products we consume come from and what that does to the earth.

Regardless of your passion, just try to get the conversation started with someone in your family.

When my family began discussing the deeper issues of the world, my parents started listening when Joe and I spoke. They were open to new ideas, and in these conversations they tried hard to make us all equals. They made an effort not to be bossy and they listened with open minds.

For instance, one night at dinner I brought up a school assembly speaker who had described the genocide in Darfur. My parents didn't try to educate me immediately on what was going on there; instead, my mom quickly grabbed a story about Darfur that she had seen in the newspaper that morning and read a bit to all of us. Joe threw in what he knew about Darfur, and suddenly we were talking -- really talking. I think we stayed at the table at least fifteen minutes longer than usual that night because we felt connected.


Sometimes it's really hard to know what will spark a good conversation. Nathan Dungan of Share Save Spend (, a website that teaches kids about money, has some great ideas in his packet of "Discussion Starter Fun Cards." Some are better for younger kids, some for older. For example:
  • How would you feel if you spent half as much on gifts (birthday, holiday, etc.) this year?
  • If you were to give more money to a charity of your choice, what cause or organization would you pick? Why?
  • How does immediate gratification get in the way of giving away money?
  • If you can only give what seems like a little bit of money, why give?
  • When have you bought something that you didn't really use or enjoy once you had it?
  • If you inherited $50,000, what would you do with it?
  • What is the best thing about sharing?

The above is an excerpt from the book The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin and Hannah Salwen. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Kevin and Hannah Salwen, authors of The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back