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

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

by Kevin Salwen, Hannah Salwen
3.9 16

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The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back EBK by Kevin Salwen, Hannah Salwen

It all started when fourteen-year-old Hannah Salwen had a eureka moment. Seeing a homeless man in her neighborhood at the same instant she spotted a man driving a glistening Mercedes, she said, "Dad, if that man had a less nice car, that man there could have a meal."

Until that day, the Salwens had been caught up like so many of us in the classic American dream—providing a good life for their children, accumulating more and more stuff, doing their part to help others but not really feeling it. So when Hannah was stopped in her tracks by this glaring disparity, her parents knew they had to act on her urge to do something. As a family, they made the extraordinary decision to sell their Atlanta mansion, buy a house half its size, and give half of the sale price to a worthy charity. At first it seemed outlandish: What, are we crazy? Then it became a challenge: We are totally doing this. Their plan eventually took them across the globe and well out of their comfort zone. In the end they learned that they had the power to change a little corner of the world. And they found themselves changing too.

As Kevin Salwen says, "No one else is nuts enough to sell their house," but what his family discovered along the way will inspire countless others, no matter what their means or resources are. Warm, funny, and deeply moving, The Power of Half is the story of how one family grew closer as they discovered that half could be so much more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547486215
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 02/10/2010
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 623,355
Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)
File size: 507 KB
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Kevin Salwen was a reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal for more than eighteen years. He serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity and works with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Hannah Salwen is a junior at the Atlanta Girls’ School. She has been volunteering consistently since the fifth grade.

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The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In these times of gloom and doom a great upbeat beacon of hope and lesson in life...Teenagers DO care, Parents CAN get along and validate them, and although we can't change everything, we can all change something...we can multiply by subtracting and grow while helping others grow...The power of half has the power of infinite possibilities if we embrace the concept...not just about giving money but so much more!! I had the pleasure of listening to Kevin and Hannah give a personal presentation of the book ...they are a great family and to those who respond to this idea with negative feedback...its not about showing you are right its about doing right , and they certainly did !! A MUST READ FOR EVERYONE!!!
plappen More than 1 year ago
This is the true story of one family's decision to actually do their bit to make the world a little better. The Salwen's live in suburban Atlanta, in a $1.5 million house, but they are veteran volunteers through the local Habitat for Humanity. One day, fourteen-year-old Hannah has a Eureka! moment. In the car with her father, she sees a shiny Mercedes car next to a homeless man. She realizes that if the Mercedes driver was driving a lesser car, the homeless man could have a meal. This leads to a decision by the family, not an easy decision, to downsize into a smaller house, and give half the proceeds to the poor. The first decision to be made was who they should help. There are many worthy charities and causes out there; the decision was made to focus on poverty in Africa. The next decision to be made was how they should help. Simply throwing money at the African continent will not help; in fact, it may just make things worse. The family was very methodical, researching a number of smaller charities, and meeting with representatives of their top 4 choices to hear their "sales pitch." The Salwen's eventually decided to assist a couple of villages in the country of Ghana, traveling there to see the results of their generosity, up close and personal. The only problem in their whole plan was that their house went up for sale right in the middle of the housing crisis, so it was on the market for a very long time. Along the way, the Salwen's learned, the hard way, that not everyone will "get it." Even friends and relatives interpreted their generosity as a comment on their lack of generosity (we're better than you are). Perhaps a bit of discretion is not a bad idea. Obviously, not everyone can downsize into a smaller house, and donate half the proceeds to the poor. Find something you can do. It can be as simple as halving your TV or computer game time each week, and spending that extra time volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen. This is an inspiring story of how one family gave back to others, and it will inspire others to do likewise.
alexia561 More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting book with an interesting premise. I had heard of this family project through morning talk shows and various news outlets, but had misunderstood what they were actually doing. I thought that they were giving away half of everything they owned, but they were actually selling their house and giving half of the proceeds to charity. This story explains how the decision came about, how they chose the charity, and the various missteps along the way. While wanting to become actively involved in charity and helping others beyond just writing a check is noble, I had mixed feeling about the Salwen family. They seemed like nice people, but I couldn't really relate to them. Probably because they lived so differently than my family. While I don't think that they were Bill Gates rich, their planned donation was $800,000, which was half of the proceeds from selling their home. Not exactly the people next door.... Thankfully, the Salwens seem to be aware that they are privileged and aren't snooty about their good fortune. I liked one of the quotes in the book when they started discussing their project with others: "We didn't want to sound cocky or arrogant or preachy. We were eager not to be perceived as strange. And we had become acutely aware that sloppy communication of our project could make others feel less charitable in their own efforts." So they are aware that this is an unusual situation and they do try to be considerate of others, but I still had mixed feelings. Towards the beginning of their journey when they are cleaning out year's worth of accumulated items, they held a yard sale. Dad Kevin is discouraged because he felt that the sale didn't go very well and now they had to get rid of the leftovers. Son Joseph was more upbeat about the results, pointing out that they made almost five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars. From a yard sale. When we cleaned out my in-laws home and had a yard sale, we only made enough money to pay for the permit and then dinner afterwards. Guess the rich are different than you and me. Just another example of how I couldn't really relate to this family. Aside from reminders of how different their lives are from mine, I did find this book inspiring. While we're not going to sell our house, and I doubt that the heads of various charities would meet with us to discuss sponsorships, it is a reminder that individuals can make a difference in the world. I really liked the kids, Hannah and Joseph. Hannah sounds like an amazing young woman, and I loved that Joseph was sort of the voice of reason in the family despite his young age. Didn't care for the parents as much, but I think it was just that I couldn't relate to their lifestyle and assumptions. Think that the family was brave in sharing their story, as they knew that there would be some negative reactions. While I don't usually read non-fiction, this book was worth reading and actually made me want to become more charitable. Gave it a 3/5 as Dad Kevin is a good writer and it was fun to "meet" Hannah and Joseph, but I still had a hard time relating to the family and their project.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
What happens to a family when one member has a “Eureka Moment” so bold and so loud that it causes the family to live up to its own definition?  For the Salwen’s of Atlanta, GA, when the daughter connected the dots between “what I have” and “what is needed,” it caused them to sell their historic, 6500 square-foot, multi-million dollar home and strive to give half of the proceeds to a project that could cause a long-lasting change in a small part of the world.  Kevin and Joan Salwen were successful professionals (he a journalist, she a consultant with Accenture at the onset of this adventure) raising their children, Hannah and Joseph, to be grateful for their affluence and to “give back” to their community by volunteering. As Kevin and Hannah sat at a congested intersection, Hannah noticed an individual asking for food on one side of their car and a Mercedes Coupe on the other.  Hannah had a moment of connection, stating, “if they had a less nice car, he could eat.”  Before she got home, “they” became “we” and the question was, “how can we be a family who DOES something (about the world’s problems) instead of a family who only talks about them?”  The family eventually decided they would sell their landmark home, move into a smaller (by 3000 sq./ft.) house and using half of the proceeds from this sale in some endeavor that would effect a meaningful, positive change on an issue of the world.   In researching the “where and how” of such a project, the Salwen’s were to learn much about actually helping others.  They learned that over 2 Trillion dollars has been spent on “helping” projects in Africa in the last fifty year with little or no change to show for it. “Giving help” and most mission trips do far more harm than help. Lasting aid requires those who are being “helped” to have buy-in to the change instead of giving them handouts (which cause dependency and disenfranchises instead of empowers). Projects that have lasting affect are those which are long-term with meaningful commitment from the community to which they are enacted. After completing their research, the family selected to work in Ghana with The Hunger Project, a non-profit whose mission is to end world hunger by empowering “locals” to find solutions to their own issues and helping them to do so.  The project would be to fund, for a five-year cycle, two (after receiving a matching grant, the two became four) “epicenters” in a cluster of villages that houses the community's programs for health, education, food security and economic development. By the book’s end, the project was just beginning so the outcome is still in development. There were several points of deep thought for me in reading this short, well-written “report.”  There is mention of religion in the book, but only anecdotally, the actions taken by the Salwen’s were rooted in a deep ethic of community, i.e. they wanted to help because there was a need. Their tremendous gift, by the author’s admission, did not change their life-style, they are still affluent.  They challenged, by the discoveries they made in their research, their readers to confront how they can address the needs they (the readers) have found in their world. This is a book worth reading – engaging writing, the end uncertain but a hint of how a family can make a difference.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I read this book, I would finish a chapter, lay the book down and stop to reflect. It made me reexamine my life and inspired me to find a way to help change a little part of the world around me for the better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an inspiration! Hannah relized she could make a difference, so she did!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this book thick??
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Driveway_Farmer More than 1 year ago
This amazing memoir weaves together three threads to create an inspiring account of philanthropy and family connection. In one thread, Kevin Salwen recounts how his family was awakened to caring and a will to act after many years of Yuppie social-climbing, job promotions, accumulation of stuff, and occasional charitable projects. Salwen details how his 14-year-old daughter became outraged about poverty, causing the family to reevaluate the legacy it wanted to leave. Working together in a democratic committee structure, the family decided to sell its oversized home and donate half the sales price to a charity. In another thread, Salwen shares the research into why some aid projects succeed and why others fail, and he reports on the state of philanthropy in the United States. In the third and most engaging thread, Salwen's now 16-year-old daughter Hannah lays out a road map for pulling together as a family or group and getting involved meaningfully in a charitable endeavor. In sidebars entitled "Hannah's Take," Hannah describes activities families or groups can do to foster stronger connections. The first activities encourage discussion about believing individuals can make a difference and realizing how much you have. These are the first steps in a process that help any family or group to have conversations that can lead to collective action. This is a book you will want to read with others, which is what makes it a great all-school, book club or Sunday School read. It's provocative, and you will want to discuss your reactions with people you care about. In parts, you may feel preached at. In others, you will feel inspired. You may wish that the family had given more or given differently, but you can't read this book without wondering about yourself and what you have to give in exchange for a closer relationship with your adult siblings, your children, your sorority sisters, or any other group. All in all, you will feel that this book affirms humanity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chloe76 More than 1 year ago
Check out The Power of Half on Life Fm's Book Cafe