At Fifty, I Gave Away My Wealth; at Sixty, My Possessions

New York, N.Y. In my most-read column for The Huffington Post, I asked in 1999, Will A Vow Of Poverty Fill the Void in My Soul?

After a career in finance dabbling in nonprofit, I decided to retire and dedicate myself fully to our family charities – Orphans International ( Worldwide and The J. Luce Foundation ( Our mission: Raising and Supporting Young Global Leaders.


I was tired of making a buck off the backs of others and wanted to throw myself into repairing the world fulltime. With a Trust fund, I was fortunate to be able to focus on doing what I wanted – making the world a better place. And I was able to do so as a full-time volunteer.

Major disasters around the world remain in the news for only a short time but the needs last longer. By 2009, we had built small homes for children who had lost their parents to the Tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and a hurricane in Haiti. Then Haiti suffered even more with a terrible earthquake…

Kids playing outside makeshift tents at Ecole de Rédemption, Léogâne, supported by
Orphans International Haiti following the 2006 earthquake. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Although sufficient funds had rolled in at the onset of these calamities, years later support slowed to a trickle. After much contemplation, I decided to deplete my savings and 401(K) retirement fund to literally keep the lights on for these desperate children.

Ten years ago, in HuffPo, I wrote:

As I approach my fiftieth birthday, I am feeling incomplete. Part of me – my soul? – is still missing. In secular terms, I think I am not yet in touch with the best way to serve humanity. In theological terms, I would say I have yet to stumble upon God’s full plan for my life…

I have given everything away – my inheritance, my savings, my pension – and devoted my home, my career, even my immediate family to this effort. Nevertheless, I have this nagging feeling that I have missed something. That none of this is quite enough…

As my fiftieth birthday looms, I yearn to feel complete. I need to find that part of me that is missing. A vow of poverty seems to me the best way to serve humanity…

Ten years later, today at sixty, I find myself at another crossroads. We need to expand our efforts: to begin to Educate Young Global Leaders, to build our endowment, and to move towards institutionalization — so our work will remain for generations to come.


What have I left to give other than my time and experience? My wealth is gone. My time finite. But I am surrounded with the things of life, objects I grew up with or have acquired over time – a library and artwork that please my soul.

I have leveraged my cash and my legacy – now can I leverage my possessions to better humanity? It is with excitement and trepidation that we unveil The Luce Family Collection – — to support Young Global Leadership.

Every morning the children of Orphans International are responsible for cleaning their
campus. Here, the bathroom in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Time will tell if our supporters will respond to the opportunity of receiving something back for their contributions. Going forward, our allies can either make a tax-deductible contribution – or purchase an heirloom, tax-free (taxes are on us!). “Give Back, Get Back.”

I appreciate my mother and father who left funds for our work, as well as my brother and mentor who remembered our work in their wills. I am thankful that many people living today have included our work in their estate planning, with several million dollars pledged so far.


But the time has come to develop social enterprise ventures (story) – the Luce Family Collection for our foundation and an eThrift Shop known as for Orphans International (story).

If our supporters would like to contribute lightly used electronics or antiques, we now have the infrastructure to support that. Eligible items for donation include cameras/lenses, cell phones, laptops, tablets, watches, wedding rings – and even small antiques.


Acceptable antiques include oil paintings – portrait and landscape, as well as porcelain and silverware. All items contributed must be valued at least $100. If you would like to donate, please go online here.

Long-term plans include a youth hostel / headquarters in the Bronx and a retreat center in Pennsylvania. A program working with Jamaican students, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim youth across South Asia, and another with Jewish and Muslim youth across the Mideast.


I have learned in twenty years that I cannot do any of this alone – only in partnership is global transformation possible. In conversation. In unity.

I pledge my next twenty years to assuring our endowment is raised and Board strengthened for both charities, so that we continue to Raise, Support and Educate Young Global Leaders to impact Climate Change, nuclear proliferation, gun control, Choice, as well as wi-fi, clean water, healthcare and education for all.


Please continue to support us. Thanks to you, we are building bridges and not walls. We are a stand against the authoritarian winds that are blowing. We are Making The Difference around the globe.

How You Can Help – Easy as 1-2-3

  1. Purchase Heirlooms
    – The Luce Collection (LINK)
  2.  Donate Funds
    – Orphans International (LINK)
    – J. Luce Foundation (LINK)
  3. Donate Items
    – Leadership Works (LINK)
The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.