Why I Donated Everything – A Year for Living Water Everything
(Written by Becki Smith, of Smith House Photography)
As confident as I was in what we wanted to do, the word still sounded like the scariest thing in the world. My husband and I had already gone from two full-time salaries to one so that I could start my own photography business, so the idea of giving our business profits away as well… well it seemed absurd to most people. It even seemed absurd to US some days. But it was so worth it. You see, I have always had a heart for the nations. In 2011 I traveled to Kenya to volunteer at the Maua Methodist Hospital, and in 2012 I spent six months in five different counties giving my time to various missions and ministries around the world. Upon returning to Texas, I struggled with balancing marriage, creativity, business ownership AND serving the nations. During Advent in 2013, a small seed was planted to give RADICALLY. To not just give our excess, but to give until it hurt. It was a foreign idea to me, but the seed was planted, and it started to take root very quickly. It is a whole different way of thinking, especially for someone raised on the American dream like I was; someone raised to save for retirement and work hard for nice things. (Don’t get me wrong, those things aren’t BAD! Just different.) I wish I could say my husband and I sat down and looked at our finances, at what we needed to live off of for the bare necessities and budgeted to give everything beyond that. But we didn’t. Our decision to give every penny of our business profits (and more) was totally based on a pull at our hearts. It wasn’t rational, it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t budgeted. It was radical. It was scary. (It was actually impossible on what we had coming in. That could be a whole additional blog post.) But it was amazing.
Not only did we donate more than $12,000 to Living Water, take a trip to Nicaragua to physically build a well, and sponsor a well to be built this summer – but WE CHANGED. Our mindsets, our goals, our relationships – they were all affected, and in the best of ways. Even as a self-employed photographer, I was no longer working for myself. I began to value my time and my profits even more than I did when they were my own. I became stricter on pricing and give-away sessions because I saw each moment and each dollar as Clean Water, not just a scarf I wanted or a new pair of shoes. My goals were no longer on being published or being the most popular photographer in my area. My goals were to serve well for the sake of my clients and my benefactor, not my own recognition. Time spent worrying about what others were doing and how many weddings I was behind my competitor was redirected to genuine thank you cards, to prayers for the ministry, to seeking new ways I could pour my heart into Living Water and my clients. I walked a fine-line between keeping my clients informed of my giving and using the year as a marketing ploy. I never wanted my intentions to seem self-centered or self-seeking. Not all of my brides and grooms even knew about my goals when they booked me. But despite redirecting funds from marketing and promotion to donations, my business flourished. My relationships with my clients strengthened, and they spoke for me; which is the most humbling thing in the world.
I am so thankful for a year of giving, and while our business will turn a profit this year, our entire outlook is different. We will continue to support Living Water International, as well as other non-profit organizations with our time, talents, and profits. We will continue to serve our current clients and give them the best of ourselves before seeking new ones. We will continue to pray for the marriages and families we have the pleasure to photograph. And all in all, we will continue to give out of our best rather than out of our excess.
All photos courtesy of Smith House Photography.