Ending My Ten-Year Vow of Poverty

New York, N.Y. Borrowed from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, ten years ago I took a Vow of Poverty, asking in my HuffPo column, “Will A Vow Of Poverty Fill The Void In My Soul?” (essay). A decade later, I can answer that existential question unequivocally. No.

milada-vigerova-45368-unsplashHands. Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

My friends, affluent and not, chided me at the time that my vow was not real: that with my education and social standing, I could break this pledge and return to wealth at a moment’s notice.Many photos have been published of me over the last ten years in tuxedo attending charity galas and some have questioned how in fact this was even “poverty.”

doug-linstedt-135670-unsplashLagos, Nigeria, Photo by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash.

Volunteering to head two family charities and having served on multiple Boards, I am obligated to support the organizations we have embraced. That does not mean I had a single dollar in my pocket to tip the bathroom attendant, however; nor that I arrived by car service.In fact, my best-read essay has been Mayflower Roots – and a Metrocard – Get One on the Subway.

Recently I married the man of my dreams, and although I have funds to travel to Indonesia and Haiti in support of our philanthropic efforts, I do not have a pocket to pull from for a honeymoon, for example. His family paid for our honeymoon when they realized we planned to skip it. And family reunions, including marriages and funerals, have been particularly challenging for me to cover…

erik-lucatero-251751-unsplashTeen on the roof. Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash.

Teenagers often want expensive sneakers, but I managed to raise my adopted son from the ages of 14 to 24 with little money. I am learning husbands are less patient.

My life is dedicated to uplifting humanity and the cause of social justice. Ten years ago, I now understand the void in my soul came from not trusting those around me who I feared loved me for what they could gain from me. Giving my wealth away did not actually alter that as I still wrote for HuffPo and could change lives with my prose.

jorge-barahona-68709-unsplashGirl in Laguna de Icalma, Chile. Photo by Jorge Barahona on Unsplash.

And I discovered that no matter how little I had, others with less still wanted from me.

We have built up our charities over the last ten years so that now executive directors run them and I can provide oversight simply chairing their boards.

Having volunteered eighty hours, seven days a week to run Orphans International (raising global leaders) and the J. Luce Foundation (supporting young global leadership) for the last ten years, it is now time for me to return to the marketplace. I have not filed a tax return since 1999 and I cannot even imagine what my once-perfect credit score looks like today.

I will not return to Wall Street and neither will I pursue divinity school or law school. I will instead dedicate myself to organizations working on immigration reform, international development or global affairs. A government position or political campaign for the right Progressive candidate might also be in the cards.

joshua-earle-234346-unsplashCape Town, South Africa. Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.

Today I know who my real friends are: those who have remained by my side through thick and thin. Today I know that the family charities we have built over the last two decades are strong enough to run on their own, under the direction of strong boards and staff. Today, my son is finishing college and my Thai husband is improving his English to work on his Masters degree.

Although New York City is indeed the center of the universe, maybe Washington or Newark or small town America will call to me. To us. We even visited Albany recently and thought, hmm… Connecticut, too, has it’s place

Our foundation has a vibrant Young Global Leadership Initiative and I would say to its participants, Money is not everything, but its absence signals to others weakness. We must stay strong to uplift humanity and serve the cause of social justice. Feel free to explore this over the next decade. Or just take it from me.

About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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